You may be familiar with Chinese brand Baidu from their internet search engine, but the massive company has far greater ambitions. Baidu own Apollo, an autonomous vehicle company that’s aiming for level 4 autonomy.
The company is currently holding its annual event, BaiduWorld2020 and as part of the announcements, we’re getting a progress update on their driverless technology.
In a YouTube video from the event, Baidu demonstrated their Apollo vehicle driving, without a human behind the wheel. While this has been demonstrated in test scenarios from other brands, Baidu are showing off this technology in the real world, on public roads.
The vehicle is seen navigating city streets, staying within lane lines, taking corners, avoiding pedestrians. The car even manages to successfully perform a U-Turn, all without a human.
The smoothness at which the car operates is really impressive and looks like a very comfortable ride for consumers.
In the event your vehicle finds itself in a situation it can’t navigate, Baidu has an option where you (or the car) can call for remote assistance and a remote driver can take over the vehicle. Given the rapid inputs required to navigate the complexities of the world, this is only possible using the built-in 5G connectivity, which offers low-latency.
This sure looks crazy on the surface, to have a remote driver of a vehicle, but compare this to waymo or cruise that require humans to sit behind the wheel, that’s a ratio of 1:1 of human guards to cars. If Baidu’s autonomy can take care of 99% of the driving and only require assistance occasionally, then there’s an opportunity for 1 remote driver, to assist multiple cars per day. This could be on a scale of 1:100 or even 1:1,000, making it far more economical.
This is a vastly different approach than what Tesla are using and if Tesla are holding off on autonomy until it’s able to cope with all situations in the world, we’ll likely see Baidu ship Level 4 autonomy first.
While much of the world’s attention is on what’s happening in the autonomous space in the US, it looks like China really has some impressive capabilities in 2020.
Baidu’s Apollo uses the following sensor suite – Lidar, GPS, forward camera, lateral camera, back Camera, OBU, Ultrasound Radar, Millimeter-wave radar.
The whole video from Baidu World is almost 3 hours long and available below.
Along with the autonomous driving, Baidu promoted their ability to valet park for you as well, finding free parking spaces and one-tap parking and retrieval.
I’m actually really impressed by what we’re seeing here from Baidu. This certainly looks like Musk may have some serious competition in the race to full autonomy.