Baidu has launched an autonomous driving ecosystem with 50 partners at its first AI developers conference in Beijing. At its heart is the US-developed code for controlling the vehicles, but the scope of Apollo 1.0 is to create an entire ecosystem encompassing research universities, components makers such as NVIDIA, navigation developers such as TomTom, and car manufacturers including Ford, Daimler and FAW (Volkswagen’s joint venture partner in China).

The federation approach is radically different to that of the traditional manufacturers and is expected to allow more companies to participate. “It even allows a range of different business models to operate within the ecosystem,” said Baidu COO Lu Qi.

The code for Apollo 1.0 is completely open-source and will be available on Github. Documentation will be updated weekly and the code fortnightly with overhauls planned for September and December—when fully autonomous urban driving is expected to be achievable.

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Frank Hersey

Frank Hersey is a Beijing-based tech reporter who's been coming to China since 2001. He tries to go beyond the headlines to explain the context and impact of developments in China's tech sector. Get in...