Briefing: Baidu and Ford partner to test self-driving cars in China

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Ford, Baidu to start self-driving road tests in China – Reuters

What happened: American multinational carmaker Ford and Chinese tech giant Baidu launched a project to test self-driving cars on roads in China. The two-year initiative will see the companies deploying cars on designated roads in Beijing by the end of the year, with the possibility of tests in additional cities in the future. The duo aims to develop level four autonomous driving capabilities, in which cars can drive themselves but only in certain conditions.

Why it’s important: China has set the ambitious goal of ensuring 50% of cars in the country are autonomous or semi-autonomous by 2020. Chinese tech giants and startups are all looking at developing autonomous driving technologies. Baidu is developing an open self-driving driving platform dubbed “Apollo” in the hope of accelerating the development of the technology. However, the company has faced its share of difficulties. In March 2017, shortly before the launch of Apollo, Wang Jin, former general manager of the company’s autonomous driving unit, announced plans to leave the company to build his own self-driving vehicle startup.