Baidu, the Google of China, is literally working on its own versions of just about every core product Google has or has in the pipeline. It does search, it does maps and now its doing self driving cars.
China's largest search company confirmed that it would debut its autonomous car prototype in China in the second quarter of 2015, an announcement which comes on the heels of a recent string of partnerships with German car companies to power their car infotainment systems in China. The announcement was delivered by Wanf Jin, Baidu's Vice President of Tech and Strategy, at the 2015 China Cloud Computing Conference.
Jin did not reveal who will make the cars but the technology will make use of the search company's mapping services, big data and research conducted by its special projects division Baidu Institute of Deep Learning or 'Baidu brain' as its known inside the company. The group's self driving car program has focused on improving the passenger experience while on Beijing's highways.
Baidu's first iteration of self-driving cars will have a steering wheel, gas and brake pedals, which is similar to Google's fleet of Lexus SUVs it uses for testing.
It remains unclear just how far along the technology is, as Google envisions production models not actually having manual controls of any sort.
Baidu, for the moment, is eyeing self-driving cars that do not totally take the human driver out of the equation, but rather help give them some freedom. The system would work similar to an aircraft's auto-pilot system rather than a whole new way of getting around.
BMW way be the manufacturer selected, as the company announced last July a partnership involving driverless technology.
While the announcement sounds more humble than Google's radical plans, make no mistake: Baidu is eyeing driverless passenger cars that operate as convenient taxi services just as much as Google is.
But in typical Chinese fashion its playing its hand slowly and not showing the world too much. At least not yet.