Baidu Says AI is Changing the World, Updates its Apollo Autonomous Driving Platform

Baidu Says AI is Changing the World, Updates its Apollo Autonomous Driving Platform

Author: Eric Walz   

LAS VEGAS -- China's internet search giant Baidu shared updates about is progress in autonomous driving today at CES in Las Vegas. Among the announcements was that Baidu's open Apollo platform is poised to transform autonomous driving, and Baidu is releasing version 2.0 its autonomous driving platform.

What will Baidu AI bring to the world? Vice chairman and COO of Baidu Qi Lu answered that question and explained how Baidu is accelerating the pace of AI development. "The AI era has already arrived. It will have a deep profound social impact." he said.

AI is part of Baidu's 5 year plan. "That is what drives everyone at Baidu" Lu said. "In 2017 we pivoted the entire company towards AI", he added. Some examples of the AI Baidu is developing in the automotive space are cars adjust all of your personal setting automatically, or act as a personal assistant, reminding you of meeting or other calendar events. The AI technology can even summon your car, autonomous driving it to meet you after you finished work at the end of the day

"Going forward, Baidu is an AI company" Lu told the audience. Baidu will use AI for the commercialization of open platforms, such as Apollo. Baidu announced a major new platform upgrade today, to Apollo 2.0. "We designed an entire platform, an ecosystem." Lu said.

Updates to Apollo

Baidu's Apollo platform has made big strides since launching in April of 2017. Lu asked a hypothetical question, "When will level 3 and 4 autonomous vehicles be commercially viable? If you asked someone this question just last year they would not have an answer". This is no longer the case. Baidu plans on perfecting autonomous driving in urban areas by this year. The Chinese government has also named Apollo the national autonomous driving platform.

Apollo includes a very powerful simulation engine, to test autonomous software, and starting today Baidu is offering each of its developer partners access to cutting edge technology.

Apollo Pilot speeds up development of commercialization of level 3 autonomy for mass production. "One giant leap into the future of autonomous driving" Lu said. it is a giant leap because its opens the door to commercialization", he added.

One of the major strengths of the Apollo platform is localization, to precisely determine a vehicle's position in the world. Apollo also utilizes high definition maps and adaption fusion LiDAR offering 5-10 centimeter accuracy. "It's always accurate, no matter the place", Qu said.

Apollo provides an open, reliable and secure software platform for its partners to develop their own autonomous driving systems through on-vehicle and hardware platforms. In addition to HD maps, the platform includes the world's first open autonomous driving simulation engine plus an end-to-end, a deep learning algorithm, so a vehicle's self-driving capabilities can get better over time.

Baidu says Apollo accelerates the development, testing, and deployment of autonomous vehicles. As participation from partners grows, more accumulated data becomes available to partners. Compared to a closed ecosystem, Apollo can evolve faster, bring greater benefits to members, and continually grow.

Partnership with Udacity


Sebastian Thrun, considered the founder of the self-driving car was a special guest. He announced for the first time a partnership with Baidu. Udacity will host an online Apollo leaning course at no charge to students who want to learn about utilizing Apollo and contributing to the Apollo open autonomous driving platform.

Thrun is the founder Google X the moonshot hub of Google that developed the self-driving car, as well as Udacity, and online learning platform that teaches specialized technical skills, such a self-driving car engineer.

Closing today's press conference was another announcement from Baidu, the company's DuerOS, which is an intelligent, conversational AI voice recognition system similar to Amazon's Alexa. DuerOS can also be incorporated in voice enabled products such as cars, TVs and smart appliances. DuerOS AI powers a new smart lamp speaker for the home build by Baidu that can be controlled by a person's voice.

Baidu CEO Robin Li also announced the launch of Apollo Global Institute, which will work on ways to support Apollo, including policies and regulations, and vehicle communications standards.

Eric Walz
Eric Walz
Originally from New Jersey, Eric is an automotive and technology reporter specializing in the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley. Eric has over fifteen years of automotive experience and a B.A. in computer science. These skills, combined with technical writing and news reporting, allows him to fully understand and identify new and innovative technologies in the automotive industry and beyond. He has worked on self-driving cars and as a technical writer, helping people to understand and work with technology. Outside of work, Eric likes to travel to new places, play guitar, and explore the outdoors.
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