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Baidu announces RMB 10 billion yuan fund for autonomous driving and launches Apollo 1.5
Baidu’s self-driving vehicle platform Apollo, known as the “Android of the auto industry” for its open source code has gotten its first update. The platform— designed to speed up speeding up self-driving development and boost cooperation between automotive and internet companies—was announced in July at Baidu’s inaugural AI Developers Conference in Beijing where TechNode got its first taste of the company’s autonomous driving system.
Baidu is hoping that by establishing an open source ecosystem rather than a closed garden will accelerate development making China the leader in autonomous driving in three to five years.
“China is very much about one solution in general. Think of WeChat – there’s one solution. Didi – one solution,” Lei Ma, a senior product manager of autonomous driving at Baidu told TechNode during July’s launch. “We’re hoping that Apollo becomes that one solution for autonomy.”
Since its launch, more than 1,300 companies have downloaded Apollo’s code and nearly 100 companies have applied for open data via the Apollo website, according to the company’s statement issued on Wednesday.
“Building on Apollo 1.0, Apollo 1.5 opens up five additional core capabilities which include obstacle perception, planning, cloud simulation, High-Definition (HD) maps and End-to-End deep learning, providing more comprehensive solutions to developers and ecosystem partners to accelerate the deployment of autonomous driving,” Baidu explained in its statement.
Baidu has also announced RMB 10 million ($1.5 billion) Apollo Fund which will invest in 100 autonomous driving projects in the next three years.
The company has been ramping up partnerships in China and abroad. In July, Microsoft announced that it will provide cloud infrastructure services via Azure to Apollo’s partners outside of China. Since then, Apollo has attracted 70 partners, including Hyundai Motor, ROS, esd electronics, Neousys Technology, and autonomous driving startups such as Momenta and iDriver+ Technologies.
Baidu will also be working with LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) sensor manufacturer Velodyne and education platform Udacity which will offer courses and competitions in autonomous technology.