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Baidu and Changan release smart car strategy

China’s search engine giant Baidu, in collaboration with China’s state-owned manufacturer Changan Automobile, on last Thursday released its “smart auto strategy”, which applies internet technology, high-resolution mapping, and artificial intelligence into traditional car making to build an ecosystem of smart services. Let’s take a quick look into what that means.

Baidu’s smart car network

Baidu’s smart car network includes three different features: CarLife, MyCar, and CoDriver.

CarLife, an app launched last January that’s available on both Android and iOS, connects smartphones to an in-car system, improving the driving experience with features like voice navigation and music streaming.

MyCar collects and analyzes data on drivers’ driving history as well as the car’s condition, and the private cloud service allows drivers to remotely control their cars. For instance, your car will notify you when it needs maintenance and suggest a nearby repair shop. Or, on a hot summer day, you can turn on the air conditioner in the car five minutes before you leave home.

CoDriver uses Baidu’s speech recognition as a digital assistant, so that users can make phone calls, play music, or search for a location using voice commands.

Baidu’s Internet of Vehicles strategy was officially unveiled in 2015. Other than these three components, it also includes the telematics security system CarGuard. The smart car system has already been applied to the Chinese models of car brands like Mercedes Benz, BMW, Audi, General Motors, and Changan.

Smart maps

Smart maps integrates Baidu’s Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) and its high-definition mapping system.

ADAS assists drivers with smart decision-making that is supposed to reduce the likelihood of accidents, and the mapping system is built to update and transmit real-time information on road conditions, so that drivers can choose to avoid traffic jams or blocked roads.

Backed by Baidu’s big data and cloud capabilities, smart mapping optimizes routes and helps with autonomous driving.

Why is Baidu working with Changan Automobile?

Changan Automobile is one of China’s four largest automakers. It has developed over 60 kinds of smart driving technology.

Although Baidu and Changan Auto have been partners for over a year and Changan Auto has produced 100,000 CarLife-enabled cars, the newly-signed strategic agreement will let Changan apply the above-mentioned technologies to its different vehicle models on a large scale. The company plans to produce hundreds of thousands of smart cars this year and ten times this number in three to five years.

Baidu and Changan Auto signed agreement at the “smart car strategy” press conference, photo from Baidu

The two parties will also combine their efforts in fields including new mapping services, driving solutions, and big data analysis.

Baidu’s telematics plan, which was initiated in 2013, was just the beginning. In 2015, Baidu invested more than RMB 10.1 billion (USD 1.56 billion) in R&D to make breakthroughs in image recognition, artificial intelligence, and driverless cars.

China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology estimated that there will be 200 million vehicles in the country by 2020. As Baidu and Changan Auto push into China’s “age of smart autos”, they are also seizing a huge market, which has yet to fully emerge.

(Top photo from Baidu)

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