JingChi announces partnership with Baidu’s Apollo days after founder’s departure

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Just days after founder and CEO Wang Jing stepped down, Chinese self-driving startup JingChi (景驰科技) joins Baidu’s Apollo as an official partner, 36kr.com is reporting (in Chinese).

Wang Jin, the former senior vice-president of Baidu’s autonomous driving unit, left Baidu in March 2017 to found JingChi. Last December, the Chinese search engine giant filed an RMB 50 million suit against Wang Jin for stealing self-driving trade secrets to compete against them and for violating non-competition rules by recruiting Baidu employees. Han Xu, CTO of JingChi and former Chief Scientist of Baidu’s autonomous driving unit, took over as CEO of the startup. Local media have speculated that Wang Jing’s departure has a large part to do with the ongoing lawsuit with Baidu.

After Wang Jing’s departure on February 26, Baidu has shown willing to move past the bad blood. Baidu spokesperson has told local media (in Chinese) that the company is dropping the lawsuit against JingChi. However, the suit against Wang Jing has already entered legal proceedings and the company cannot comment further on the matter. General manager of Baidu’s Intelligent Driving Group Li Zhenyu said in a statement: “Baidu Apollo open source platform fully embraces the new force brought by autonomous driving startups. Baidu hopes to lower the threshold for autonomous driving industry and become the innovation accelerator for outstanding startups like JingChi through its innovative open source platform.”

Baidu’s open-source autonomous driving platform Apollo was launched in April 2017 and has already enlisted over 70 industry partners including autonomous driving startups such as Momenta and iDriver+ Technologies, and Chinese EV startups such as NIO, Chehejia, and WM Motors.

Baidu is on its way to becoming China’s leading provider of autonomous driving technology, racing against its local rival Didi Chuxing who is speeding up autonomous driving projects and pouring billions into the research.

Updated 2:20pm 5 March 2018: Baidu spokesperson has told local media that the company is dropping the lawsuit against JingChi, but the suit against Wang Jing has entered legal proceedings and the company will not comment further on the matter.