Baidu’s driverless car preps for a license test. Can it boost Baidu’s new growth?

On a sunny day, two puppies were enjoying their ride on a driverless car in Beijing. That was Baidu having its driverless car prepare for a driver’s license test.

According to Baidu’s WeChat official account, the puppies are not going to see the car getting a driver’s license anytime soon – in fact, when driverless cars become ubiquitous, driver’s licenses may lose their reason to exist.

Last December, Baidu’s driverless car had completed its first test drive, with the highest speed reaching 100 km/h. Until this April, Baidu has applied for 358 patents concerning driverless car technologies. And earlier this August, Baidu and American automaker Ford led an investment of USD 150 million in Velodyne, a leading maker of LIDAR sensors that play a crucial role in guiding autonomous cars.

Andrew Ng, the Chief Scientist at Baidu Research, told the Wall Street Journal that they expected to commercialize its driverless cars by 2018.

Baidu CEO Robin Li believes that driverless cars will sooner or later become ubiquitous, especially as technologies mature and relevant policies come out.

Robin Li spoke on Thursday at the 2016 Yabuli China Entrepreneurs Forum Summer Summit. According to NetEase Tech, Li claimed that the era of the PC has gone by, and the current era of mobile internet may only last for four to five years. However, the AI era is coming, which will bring transformative changes to four major industries: manufacturing, entertainment, medica industries, and automobile.

Li emphasized the safety of autonomous or driverless cars. He said that once users get used to the Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) which does not make a car 100% autonomous, accidents may happen in situations when human interference is required but absent. In order to make the car capable of handling all situations by itself, further development of AI technologies is crucial.

Baidu’s latest financial report shows that the Q2 2016 income totaled RMB 18.26 billion (USD 2.75 billion), a YoY growth of 10.2%; yet the net profit was RMB 2.41 billion, a YoY decrease of 34.1%. Will the autonomous car project help bring new growth to Baidu? We’ll have to wait and see.   

(Top photo from Baidu Images)

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