Whilst Alphabet’s Waymo and Uber battle it out in the US courts over self-driving car tech, Baidu wants to make the development process more open.
The Chinese internet giant says it wants to share the technology it has developed for autonomous vehicles to encourage the development of the software.
Baidu’s project, named Apollo after the Apollo lunar landing programme, will make the software, hardware and data it has been developing since 2015 available to others, in particular carmakers.
The company hopes that this will build a collaborative ecosystem amongst tech companies and carmakers, which will utilise Baidu’s own strengths in artificial intelligence (AI) and promote the development of autonomous vehicles.
Baidu’s group president and chief operating office, Qi Lu, said:
“An open, innovative industry ecosystem initiated by Baidu will accelerate the development of autonomous driving in the US and other developed automotive markets. In addition, through open technology our technological achievements can be quickly applied to a wide range of fields — and accelerate even more achievements. This is a great opportunity for those talent dedicated in autonomous driving.”
This is a different stance for Baidu to take compared to other companies developing autonomous driving technology, such as Alphabet and Uber. Google’s parent company is suing the startup for stealing its self-driving tech after it hired one of Alphabet’s ex-engineers, Anthony Levandowski.
This week, Uber lost an executive who worked on the self-driving programme at the company and, though the company made a statement saying the resignation was not related to the lawsuit.
It is thought that Baidu’s attempts to make its autonomous driving tech open source is similar to the way Google has made its Android operating system available to other smartphone developers. This has allowed Android to dominate the smartphone market against Apple’s iOS and kept Google at the forefront of software development for the devices.
At Baidu’s announcement ahead of the Shanghai Motor Show, the Chinese electric car start-up NextEV’s founder, William Li, said he believes an open platform for autonomous driving could make it “popular faster than we can imagine”.
“In the future, the value chain of the automotive industry will be changed and personalised experiences will be the basis for car brands and the future direction of their development,” said Li.