Chinese tech giant Baidu announced signing strategic cooperation agreements with two of China’s leading automotive companies, BAIC Group and Xiamen King Long United Automotive Industry Co., Ltd. (“King Long”). Baidu and BAIC Group, one of the largest automakers in China, will mass-produce vehicles with Level 3 autonomous features around 2019 and fully autonomous Level 4 cars around 2021.

Baidu also signed a strategic partnership agreement with King Long, a leading Chinese commercial vehicle manufacturer. Together the two companies will put autonomous buses that run on designated areas into mass production and trial operation by the end of July 2018.

Two of these strategic partnerships is a pavement for Baidu’s open-source autonomous driving platform Apollo. The platform was announced in July where TechNode actually had a chance to test drive Apollo 1.0. This September, Baidu’s announced an RMB 10 billion fund for autonomous driving and the release of Apollo 1.5.

Baidu Chairman and CEO Robin Li (right) and BAIC Group Chairman Xu Heyi at strategic partnership agreement signing ceremony (Image Credit: Baidu)

Baidu Chairman and CEO Robin Li (right) and BAIC Group Chairman Xu Heyi at strategic partnership agreement signing ceremony (Image Credit: GlobeNewswire)

The combination of Baidu’s Apollo open platform and BAIC Group’s vehicle platform will enable the mass production of autonomous cars, with Baidu’s AI technology at the core. The cooperation covers connected cars and cloud services with the goal of creating an “AI+Automotive” ecosystem. Apollo technology, the conversational AI platform DuerOS, and image recognition technologies will be integrated into BAIC Group’s in-car systems to create a one-stop shop of connected car products.

In addition, the two companies will jointly explore opportunities to create a new cloud ecosystem, products in intelligent transportation and mobile travel, and other big data services. When it comes to using cloud AI, Baidu also partnered with Microsoft to use its cloud infrastructure services via Azure on last July.

It is anticipated that BAIC will be fully equipped with the Apollo car networking capabilities by the end of 2018, and in 2019, the number of BAIC vehicles equipped with Baidu’s connected car products is expected to exceed 1 million.

Baidu and King Long, China’s leading bus manufacturer, will work together to release autonomous driving buses that run in designated areas by the end of July 2018. These vehicles will be the first self-driving buses in China to be mass-produced and mark an acceleration of Baidu’s timeline for the mass production of autonomous vehicles. The partnership will combine Apollo’s autonomous driving solutions with King Long’s extensive vehicle fleet, pioneering work, and expertise in commercial vehicle designs for mass production. The two companies have already performed autonomous waypoint driving in enclosed venues using King Long buses deployed with Apollo’s 1.0 capabilities.