Baidu and Ford Motor (China) on June 27 confirmed cooperation intention in frontier mobility fields including AI, connectivity, and digital marketing by signing a formal Letter of Intent (LOI).

The Signing Ceremony. From left to right: Ya-Qin Zhang, president of Baidu; Tan Su, general manager of Baidu’s internet of vehicles division; Robert Hou, director of mobility platforms and products, Ford Asia Pacific; Peter Fleet, Ford group vice president and president of Ford Asia Pacific. (Image Credit: Baidu and Ford Motor.)

The cooperation is likely to utilize Ford Motor’s existing industrial advantages, manufacturing assets, and extensive professional networks to support Baidu’s ambition in autonomous driving and related research projects. In return, Baidu’s massive data including those collected in Baidu map will further allow traditional car manufacturer Ford Motor to acquire first-hand information.

Baidu’s dominant position in China’s search engines will also expand Ford’s marketing channels in China. The big data leader will enable Ford to accurately understand market movements, consumer behavior shifts, and tailored-marketing plans.

Further, according to the Letter, new in-vehicle infotainment systems and digital services based on Baidu’s DuerOS conversational AI platform are one major focus of the cooperation. The systems and the platform are featured with voice recognition, natural language understanding, and image recognition.

Peter Fleet, Ford group vice president and president of Ford Asia Pacific and Ya-Qin Zhang, president of Baidu, met today at Baidu’s headquarters in Beijing for the signing of the Letter.

“Collaborating with leading technology companies such as Baidu supports our vision to become the world’s most trusted mobility company by leveraging new opportunities to build a sustainable mobility ecosystem. As part of our ‘In China, For China’ strategy, we look forward to working closely to offer smart products and solutions that can make people’s lives easier and more enjoyable,” Peter Fleet said.

However, though general global earnings topped estimates, Ford’s performance in Asia Pacific region for the period first quarter of 2018 was not satisfactory. Its fiscal report showed a regional Earnings before Interest and Tax (EBIT) loss of $119 million, which Ford attributed to poor China business. Ford’s Mobility business eyeing autonomous driving and other commercial mobility potentials, were also suffering from losses.

To sustain ambition in technological pursuit, the two parties are also putting building a joint connectivity lab for innovations such as cloud-based AI in the automotive and mobility fields in China into schedule.

Ford joined Baidu’s Apollo autonomous driving open platform 1.0 as one of the 15 whole-car manufacturing as founding members in July 2017. Also in the founders’ list include global giant Daimler, strong domestic new energy player BAIC BJEV (北汽新能源), and emerging startup NIO (蔚来).

Robert Hou, director of mobility platforms and products, Ford Asia Pacific and Tan Su, general manager of Baidu’s internet of vehicles division, signed the strategic cooperation agreement on behalf of the two companies.