Ford and Baidu (China’s equivalent of Google) announced a two-year commitment to test autonomous vehicles in China. Baidu, the largest Chinese-language search engine, will leverage its tech skills and access to the Beijing autonomous testing grounds in the partnership with the American automaker. Ford will continue toward the company’s goal of providing and promoting intelligent vehicles for a changing world.
Ford engineers at the Nanjing Research and Engineering Center have fitted vehicles with Baidu’s Apollo Virtual Driver System, and the required hardware to make the vehicles ready to test on open roads. Beijing has developed roads that, while open to regular motor traffic, are specifically meant for autonomous vehicle testing, and there are possibilities to test in other Chinese cities as future regulations permit. The Beijing on road tests are expected to begin by the end of the year.
The autonomous vehicle platform is designed to meet the SAE Level 4 driving automation standard, which allows for completely autonomous vehicle operation within a specific area and specific weather conditions. These Beijing test roads have been developed as an incubator for autonomous vehicle testing in real-world driving situations, and thus are ideal for this trans-global partnership.
Ford Autonomous Vehicles LLC CEO Sherif Marakby notes that “working with a leading tech partner like Baidu allows us to leverage new opportunities in China to offer innovative solutions that improve safety, convenience and the overall mobility experience.” Zhenyu Li, vice president of Baidu’s Intelligent Driving Group, stated that “this project will combine our leading-edge technological know-how and understanding of China together with Ford’s vehicle expertise, marking a significant step forward towards Baidu’s goal of developing autonomous driving vehicles that will greatly benefit future consumers.”
The new partnership is an extension of the Apollo Committee, the advisory group for Baidu’s Apollo autonomous driving platform. Marakby is also a board member of the Apollo Committee.