China’s biggest internet search company Baidu has won a bid to build public road infrastructure for self-driving cars in southwestern Chongqing municipality, a deal worth $7.5 million.

Why it matters: Baidu is expanding from developing autonomous vehicle technology to offering cloud-based transport infrastructure for car connectivity amid rising 5G adoption in China.

  • China in 2011 began researching vehicle-to-everything (V2X) technology that links cars, transport facilities, and other road agents through a carrier network. It ramped up efforts with the launch of what it said was the world’s largest V2X city network in the eastern city of Wuxi in late 2017.
  • Baidu open-sourced its V2X solutions a year later. It then set up a standalone V2X department late last year in response to Beijing’s call to close the gap with world leaders in the self-driving race.

Details: Yongchuan district in Chongqing has offered a RMB 52.8 million ($7.5 million) contract to Baidu to develop cloud data centers for self-driving car testing on city roads, the government said in an announcement released Tuesday (in Chinese).

  • Baidu will provide a package of solutions including cloud data centers for vehicle-infrastructure communication and car management, enabling Level 4 autonomous vehicles to test on a 20 square kilometer (around 7.7 square mile) area of public roads.
  • The contract also covers deployment of edge servers and signal control systems on roads for detecting objects and transmitting data. The deal was part of a larger RMB 1 billion framework deal struck between Baidu and the district government for an AV test infrastructure project last March.
  • In an announcement released on Friday, Baidu said a fleet of more than 100 self-driving cars could drive on the roads to validate concepts of operations and technologies after construction.
  • In April, the Chinese tech giant became one of the first seven companies to win permits for AV tests by Chongqing’s government, alongside state-owned automakers including Changan and Dongfeng.

Context: Baidu has reached partnerships with more than a dozen Chinese governments over the past few years. Some of the biggest deals were those with Beijing and Changsha, to monetize its futuristic AV technologies.

  • The company inked a framework agreement with Yinchuan, the capital of western Ningxia province, in late December to enable self-driving rigs tested with V2X solutions following a similar deal with the government of the northern Cangzhou city two months ago.
  • “It is important for us to gain operational experience as well as derive commercial value from areas, such as smart transportation to ensure that we are meeting market needs with our technology,” Baidu CEO Robin Li said during the fourth quarter earnings call.

Jill Shen is Shanghai-based technology reporter. She covers Chinese mobility, autonomous vehicles, and electric vehicles. Connect with her via e-mail: jill.shen@technode.com More by Jill Shen