China's Baidu Inc. Plans to Have its Apollo Autonomous Driving Technology Pre-installed in One Million Vehicles in 3 to 5 Years

China's Baidu Inc. Plans to Have its Apollo Autonomous Driving Technology Pre-installed in One Million Vehicles in 3 to 5 Years

Author: Eric Walz   

The development of autonomous driving technology continues at a rapid pace in China, including the development of autonomous buses and 5G powered connected vehicle technologies. 

For the past four years, China's internet giant Baidu Inc. has been developing autonomous driving technology with over 100 industry partners as part of its open "Apollo" intelligent driving and cloud computing platform which launched in 2017. Now the company shared the latest updates for Apollo at Auto Shanghai, which is one of the world's biggest auto events. 

During a presentation at Auto Shanghai 2021, Baidu unveiled the latest upgrades to Apollo, including plans to offer customizable autonomous driving platforms to automakers for the commercialization of self-driving vehicles at scale.

Baidu's open Apollo autonomous driving platform is widely regarded as the "Android of the Automotive Industry." It has grown to become the largest open-source autonomous driving platform in the world, according to Baidu. Among the global automakers contributing to the Apollo platform are BMW, Ford Motor Co, Toyota, Volkswagen and Honda.

Apollo is a comprehensive, secure, all-in-one autonomous driving ecosystem which supports all of the major functions of a self-driving car. Contributions from Baidu's industry partners are helping to speed up the development of autonomous driving and related technology,

Baidu plans to have its Apollo Navigation Pilot (ANP) intelligent driving solutions available in more than one million vehicles in the next three to five years, said Li Zhenyu, senior corporate vice president at Baidu.

In addition, Baidu plans to bring ANP to urban roads and highways in 20 cities this year and up to 100 cities in China by 2023. 

ANP is a camera-based solution like Tesla's Autopilot. It's based on the same technology as Baidu's Apollo L4 autonomous technology that is being developed for buses. Compared with the lidar solutions, the camera-based ANP cost less to develop. However its still includes AI-powered self-learning capabilities and can be built at scale. 

In the second half of 2021, the Apollo will come pre-installed with at least one mass-produced car model each month. One of the car models using Baidu's Apollo Valet Parking (AVP) solution is the Weltmeister W6, a new fully-electric SUV from Chinese EV startup Weltmeister.

Baidu alos announced at Auto Shanghai that it completed over 10 million kilometers of L4 autonomous driving road testing in China, making Baidu the first Chinese company to reach this milestone. In addition to the 10 million kilometers of real-world testing, Baidu completed over one billion kilometers in computer simulation. 

The simulation engine, which has embedded HD maps with centimeter level accuracy, is backed by vast amounts of actual driving data collected by Baidu, including traffic lights, road signs, speed limits, and lane markers so developers can fine tune their autonomous driving algorithms.

These two milestones demonstrate the solid capabilities of Apollo's solutions for commercial deployment, according to Baidu.


Autonomous shuttles built by Baidu.

Baidu Updated its Cloud Platform for Automakers

In addition to sharing the latest updates to Apollo, Baidu also announced upgrades to its intelligent cloud-based solutions, which are designed to support automakers in adding 5G-powered intelligent capabilities for their vehicles. 

With the upgraded intelligent cloud solutions, automakers will be able to accelerate the development of their autonomous driving technology. The cloud platform solutions have the capability to significantly shorten the autonomous driving R&D cycle from the current seven years to just six months, according to Baidu.

Under Apollo, Baidu will assist partners in developing AI production lines. It will also work with car companies on self-learning capabilities for smart in-cabin technology, which will allow the companies to better understand their users and provide them with a more customized driving experience. 

Apollo's cloud services include a car safety cloud solution to help automakers improve the safety of their model lineups. Apollo also announced a strategic collaboration with Chinese automaker Chery Automobile that's based on its intelligent cloud. 

Last year, Baidu completed a test site called "Apollo Park" that supports the development and testing of autonomous vehicles, as well as vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-everything (V2X) technology. Apollo Park can support all of the functions associated with self-driving vehicles and connected cars, including cloud computing and research and development.

Baidu is developing an entire transportation ecosystem to connect and support all of its autonomous driving and connected vehicle technologies. 

This year, Apollo plans to strengthen its team and expand its recruitment. Among the new hires, Baidu said that 90% will be dedicated to research and development. This will help to accelerate the large-scale deployment of Baidu's robotaxi service called "Apollo GO." 

In order to process all of the data for autonomous driving, Baidu developed its "Apollo Computing Unit" (ACU), which the company says is the world's first production-ready compute platform built specifically for autonomous vehicles. All of the ACU's components meet automotive-grade production requirements. Baidu said the production capacity of the ACU is 200,000 units a year.

Eric Walz
Eric Walz
Originally hailing from New Jersey, Eric is a automotive & technology reporter covering the high-tech industry here in Silicon Valley. He has over 15 years of automotive experience and a bachelors degree 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 auto industry and beyond. He has worked at Uber on self-driving cars and as a technical writer, helping people to understand and work with technology.
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