Baidu announces BMW partnership

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Google has been ahead of the trend when it comes to driverless cars for a few years now, especially when it comes to full automation, which other car manufacturers aren’t even close to achieving. This might seem like an odd place to be for a company that built itself up based around a search engine, but apparently it’s not that odd, as earlier this year we learned that Chinese search giant Baidu was also looking to build a driverless cars division for its business. To help achieve that goal, it’s now teamed up with BMW to jointly work on developing the automated technology.

According to PC World, Baidu is going to combine its 3D printing technology with BMW’s vehicular know how to create a diverseness vehicle of the future, that’s cheap to produce, safe and entirely driver free.

The idea behind the project is of course to compete on the global stage with other auto manufactures and with Google’s own bubble cars, but another reason is because of China’s growing automotive problem. With one of the world’s largest populations and some of the world’s densest cities, China is rapidly coming up against a brick wall in terms of its automotive infrastructure. Roads can’t handle the volumes of traffic and people are struggling to get to where they need to be to do their jobs.

baidumaps

Baidu has a maps service also

Autonomous cars are thought to be a decent solution to these sorts of problems, since cars and buses that can operate without a driver can be given traffic priority since there is less chance of accidents and can run all day as long as they have power. Cars can also be shared among families or communities and parking isn’t an issue since the vehicle can find one itself far from the workplace.

However, as with all other automakers, Baidu and BMW are a long way off that fully autonomous ideal. In the mean time, BMW and the search giant will work on developing some more stop gap technologies, like automated parking, lane assistance, autonomous emergency braking and more. Baidu will also be able to leverage its extensive data banks of information, which could help develop better algorithms for automated technologies. 3D printing could also reduce the cost of any specific hardware requirements that might come up as part of their development.

Baidu remains po-faced on the subject of whether it is simply copying Google, as it announced its driverless car tech some years later than the American search giant. However Baidu has built its empire up off of its Chinese search engine functions and it also recently launched its own Google Glass like gadget, the Baidu Eye, which offers a heads up display and hands free information sharing, something Google was hoping to champion with its Glass prototype.

What do you guys think? Is Baidu just copying Google, or is it setting out on its own in a brave attempt to stay competitive in multiple technological markets?

 

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Jon Martindale is an English author and journalist, who's written for a number of high-profile technology news outlets, covering everything from the latest hardware and software releases, to hacking scandals and online activism.