The big news in automated cars last week, was that Baidu, the Chinese search giant, had announced a partnership with German luxury car maker BMW, to jointly produce a range of automated cars and to help further develop assisted driverless features for current generations of vehicles. Despite this announcement however, the details of the deal have been kept under wraps until now and BMW has remained silent on it. Today though we have a statement from the company and as an extra treat, some real insight into what it and Baidu are going to be doing over the next few years.
To begin with, BMW’s already developed driverless technologies will be trialled in China’s biggest cities, to see if they might be able to help out some of the traffic issues currently being experienced by the rapidly expanding population. On top of that, Baidu will be providing the auto-maker with its detailed satellite and aerial maps of China, in order to better offer navigation and automated locomotion features in the country.
Both companies believe that with their cooperation – and perhaps slightly less stringent legislation in the Eastern country – they should be able to get fully automated cars on the roads in China within two years. This would put both companies far ahead of their main rival in the automated car sector, Google.
We also learned that the new project is going to be called Vision-Zero, which signifies the joint belief that once enough of these cars are on the road, they’ll bring the number of accidents and deaths on Chinese highways down to zero.
However, that won’t be just because the automated technology has taken over and will be entirely independent. Baidu and BMW described the automated technology as acting independently, but in tune with the driver. In an analogy, they compared it to a horse and rider, where technically the rider is in control, but much of the busy work is handled by the horse. That same horse will stop if there’s danger, or swerve to avoid a collision if the rider doesn’t react in time, so too will the automated technology the two firms are working on.
In the short term however, Baidu plans to make a pretty penny from its deal with BMW, as according to Forbes, it also plans to license its mapping data for BMW to offer its navigation services in the country for a small cost. This could further be expanded to offer interior navigation too, as Baidu recently bought out Indoor Atlas, a company that uses the magnetometers in people’s smartphones to detect the magnetic field around them and thereby build up an idea of what the interior of a building is like.
This could technically aid people in finding parking spaces in the future, as well as navigating tunnels or other technically “indoors” sections of roadways, as well as individuals moving around large public buildings.