China has a bit of a history of one upmanship. It’s known for taking designs of things produced in other countries or by other companies and making its own version, whether that’s strictly legal in a copyright law sense or not. However now Chinese search giant Baidu, has announced that like Google, it too is working on a driverless car.
Speaking to TechInAsia, China’s answer to Google announced it was working on a similar technology, but did admit that it’s tech was in a very early developmental stage and was some ways off live field tests like Google has been conducting recently. It’s expected however that development of the technology is taking place at both Baidu’s Chinese and Silicon Valley R&D labs.
Chances are, it’ll need to buy up the autonomous technology from another company if it wants to catch up to Google, as that search giant has been beavering away at driverless car technology since as early as 2005. If Baidu itself has only recently dipped its toes in the water, its own technology is going to be far behind. It does of course have the advantage of much more miniature computing components than Google was working with back then, as well as more powerful processors, but there’s still a lot of ground work to lay if it can ever hope of competing directly.
Google is also a much bigger company with vastly superior resources. It’s total assets weigh in at close to $100 billion, whereas Baidu’s are closer to $10 billion.
That said, competing on performance isn’t what most Chinese firms do when they make their duplicates. What they compete on is price, using lower quality internal components and taking advantage of cheap local labour to produce them (like most of the world’s gadget makers). Likewise it seems likely that due to the way the Chinese government works, it will be keen to promote local services over those of international competitors, so Baidu may have a big advantage its home market.
As usual though, there is no real downside for us as the consumer. More competition almost always breeds better quality products with more affordable pricing.
Baidu is doing quite well financially at the moment, having produced higher than expected results from this last quarter’s reports. It’s been pushing its mobile efforts forward and has seen big returns on adverts on the platform. In a statement today a spokesperson confirmed that Baidu was going to continue investing heavily in mobile as China’s pool of smartphone users grows exponentially.
The search giant has said however, that it doesn’t plan to make any more acquisitions, having bought up several app makers in the past few years. That sort of assurance isn’t particularly needed however, as investors are likely happy to see the company turning such large profits year on year. In the third quarter of 2014, it expects to pull in over 13.5 billion Yuan (£1.1 billion) in total revenue.