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Baidu adjusts leadership to prioritize AI and cloud business

Baidu CEO Robin Li announced a new round of leadership changes on Thursday. Shen Dou, an executive vice president, will take charge of Baidu’s AI Cloud Group. This sector of the company was previously led by Haifeng Wang, in addition to his duties as chief technology officer. Shen’s appointment as leader of Baidu’s AI and cloud business is a sign that the company sees the sector as an important vertical. Shen served as a researcher and research project manager at Microsoft before joining Baidu in 2012. Since 2019, he has been executive vice president of Baidu’s Mobile Ecosystem Group, which provides services to Baidu App and Baijiahao.

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Nio partners with Baidu for in-car voice services

Baidu announced on Thursday that its smart voice business has reached a partnership deal with Nio. The Chinese tech giant will enable the electric vehicle maker to improve the in-car voice assistant experience based on its DuerOS voice-enabled technology. Baidu, which reportedly led a $600 million funding round in Nio back in early 2017, will collaborate with the EV upstart as a “media and content ecosystem provider,” the company told Chinese media without revealing further details. Last October, Chinese artificial intelligence firm iFlytek told investors that it offers its voice assistant solutions to Nio’s three crossover vehicles.

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Baidu, Pony.ai granted driverless taxi permits in Beijing

Baidu and on Thursday announced that they have obtained permits from the Beijing city government to offer driverless rides in an area of 60 square kilometers (23 square miles) in the city’s southeast Yizhuang district. Baidu and will start by operating 10 and four autonomous vehicles respectively, offering ride-hailing services without a safety driver behind the wheel, although each vehicle will have a monitor in a passenger seat. Guangzhou-based rival WeRide became the first self-driving company to begin testing fully driverless vehicles in China in July 2020. [CNBC]

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Auto giant BYD to use Baidu’s automated driving software: Baidu CEO

Baidu is teaming up with BYD to provide the auto giant with automated driving software to be used in multiple popular BYD models, Baidu CEO Robin Li said on Tuesday during his company’s Q4 2021 earnings call. BYD plans to adopt Baidu’s Apollo Navigation Pilot assisted driving software, which enables hands-free driving on highways, and its AVP autonomous parking system, Li revealed, without giving further details. Best-known for its search engine, Baidu is also developing electric vehicles in partnership with automaker Geely and plans to begin mass production of its first model in 2023. [Baidu earnings call transcript]

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Baidu names Luo Rong as new CFO

Chinese search giant Baidu appointed Luo Rong, former chief financial officer (CFO) of tutoring firm TAL Education Group, as its new CFO, reporting directly to chief executive officer Robin Li. Before joining TAL in 2014, Luo served as CFO of online travel platform eLong and financial executives at Lenovo and Microsoft. Baidu’s former CFO, Herman Yu, was appointed as the company’s chief strategy officer. [Baidu press release]

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Baidu opens robotaxi pilot to public in Guangzhou

Baidu opened its autonomous ride-hailing pilot program to the public in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou Saturday, operating a fleet of 30 sedans in an area of around 60 square miles in Huangpu district. The internet giant has been piloting restricted non-commercial robotaxi services in four domestic cities, with plans to expand the numbers to 30 cities and 3,000 vehicles over the next three years. [Baidu press release, in Chinese]