Ford China today signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) with Chinese technology company Baidu to explore strategic collaborations across a range of different areas, including vehicle connectivity and digital services, artificial intelligence, and digital marketing. The LOI was signed at Baidu’s headquarters in Beijing, with Ford Asia Pacific Director of Mobility Platforms and Products Robert Hou, and Baidu Internet of Vehicles General Manager Tan Su signing on behalf of their respective companies.
“Collaborating with leading technology companies such as Baidu supports our vision to become the world’s most trusted mobility company by leveraging new opportunities to build a sustainable mobility ecosystem,” says Ford President of Asia Pacific Peter Fleet. “As part of our ‘In China, For China’ strategy, we look forward to working closely to offer smart products and solutions that can make people’s lives easier and more enjoyable.”
Ford and Baidu’s efforts to do with artificial intelligence won’t be limited to developing software for autonomous driving; the automaker already joined Baidu’s Apollo open autonomous driving platform in July of last year. Instead, the two companies have plans to collaborate on new vehicle infotainment and digital services using Baidu’s DuerOS conversational AI platform. The smart platform features voice recognition, image recognition, and natural language comprehension, all of which could help build a smarter, more intuitive user interface for navigation and other in-car services.
Ford and Baidu also have plans to open a joint connectivity lab to explore further innovations in the automotive and mobility spaces, using cloud-based AI solutions to improve the user experience both in-car, and through other touchpoints.
But the Ford/Baidu collaboration isn’t just about artificial intelligence. Ford has had trouble connecting with Chinese customers, but with Baidu’s help, the automaker will investigate technologies and big data that could help it to better understand customer behavior and preferences in the country, bolstering the effectiveness of its digital marketing. Ford and Baidu will also explore further cloud computing opportunities, like integration with the open Transportation Mobility Cloud being developed by Ford Smart Mobility subsidiary Autonomic.