Baidu, China’s largest search firm, might someday have a fair greater enterprise: making the detailed high-definition maps wanted for autonomous vehicles to get round safely.
The corporate believes that in the long run HD maps in China will likely be a “a lot greater enterprise” than Baidu’s search enterprise is right now, mentioned Baidu’s chief working officer, Qi Lu, talking with a small group of reporters on the annual CES client know-how convention in Las Vegas on Tuesday.
HD maps are at the moment an important piece of the self-driving puzzle, serving to autonomous vehicles know every kind of details about the world round them. They’re created by driving streets with sensor-laden vehicles, gathering knowledge about issues like the placement of visitors lights, lanes, and different vital options.
China bought about 25 million new vehicles final 12 months, making the potential marketplace for driverless vehicles, vans, and different automobiles huge. They might assist scale back visitors and enhance security on the roads.
Baidu will promote HD maps as a service, Lu mentioned, to clients like automotive makers who will both choose to cost service charges or bake the price into the general price of the automobiles.
The corporate additionally introduced this week that it’s partnering with mapping firm TomTom to combine its HD maps into its Apollo autonomous-vehicle software program. Baidu, which has solely been engaged on driverless vehicles for about 5 years (a lot much less time than, say, Google’s Waymo), is taking an open-source strategy with Apollo and now has 90 accomplice firms, together with Ford and Nvidia. It hopes these firms will contribute knowledge they collect again to Baidu in order that it may possibly use the outcomes to enhance its AI.
Different firms, together with chipmaker Intel, are additionally engaged on HD maps for autonomous automobiles. However Baidu seems to dominate in China, no less than, and Lu touted Baidu’s relationships with the nation’s municipal governments and different entities in China as a method to “assist pave the best way” for firms’ self-driving vehicles to be effectively acquired there.
“Not that we are going to change into the nationwide normal,” he added.
That doesn’t imply it is going to be simple for the corporate to supply the information that might allow autonomous vehicles to drive safely on public streets. Gathering knowledge by driving round is time consuming, and it must be achieved repeatedly so as to sustain with modifications which can be made to roads over time.