On November 1, Baidu held its flagship Baidu World Conference focused on partnerships and new artificial intelligence projects.

“Baidu World is the annual festival for Baidu to look back our tech achievements and future ambitions,” Robin Li, founder and CEO of Baidu, said.

Li introduced Baidu’s interactive AI speaker and announced the opening of an AI-backed park in Haidian, one of China’s major tech hubs. Visitors can learn taichi through augmented reality and can take an autonomous minibus to travel to park gates.

A greater Baidu ambition is implementation of AI for internet of things (IoT) and a connected intelligent vehicle system for smart city operation.

By facilitating the “integration of vehicle and road (车路协同)”, Baidu hopes to allow high-precision map and sensor deployment across driving use cases to assist an open-source AI platform for transportation efficiency improvement.

“Strategy based on the internet is outdated,” Li said. “We need thought and logic based on AI.”

Li Zhenyu, General Manager of Baidu’s Intelligent Driving Group, said Baidu wants to reduce waiting time for traffic lights by 30% to 40%. The company has reached an agreement with municipal governments of Beijing and Shanghai towards this end. Baidu also announced autonomous taxi services in Changsha.

Further, according to him, the company has established partnerships with over 200,000 models of car available in China. By 2020, major Baidu partners’ cooperation autonomous vehicle models, including an L4 passenger model in the works with Chinese carmaker FAW, will proceed into mass production.

The company’s AI projects, with close ties to state-backed partners, may see increasing top-down support granted from Beijing soon.

“It’s interesting that yesterday, members of the Politburo studied artificial intelligence together. President Xi also addressed an important speech,” Robin Li said at the keynote speech with a smile. “I feel the development of China’s AI will soon see a boom.”

One day prior to the conference, President Xi, during a politburo meeting where top government power-holders gather to discuss trends and expectations, said Beijing would “foster the healthy development of China’s new artificial intelligence generation” (in Chinese).

Interestingly, Baidu highlighted an “in-car service ecosystem” empowered by “smart mini programs”, an in-vehicle human-machine interaction solution very similar to Tencent’s mini-programs for their internet of vehicle strategy. The social network giant is hosting its partner conference which runs from November 1 to November 3. According to official announcement TechNode received from Tencent, the giant is putting all highlights on a smart driving ecosystem as part of a “significant corporate strategy upgrade and structure modification.”

During the keynote speech at Tencent’s partner conference, Xi’s speech and the politburo meeting were also suggested as an important signal for AI-related Tencent partners to aggressively take actions.

“We need to leverage the power of artificial intelligence to push forward innovation revolutions in the first (agriculture), second (industry), and third (service) industries.” Gao Wen, a professor at Peking University and member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, commented (in Chinese) on Beijing’s policy signal in the People’s Daily.

Runhua Zhao

Runhua Zhao is a technology reporter based in Beijing. Connect with her via email: runhuazhao@technode.com

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