The Chinese web search giant Baidu is looking to expand its autonomous car program to the United States by bringing a 100-person team to Silicon Valley. This puts it in the same space – and now, same neighborhood – as its closest American equivalent, Google.
Baidu isn’t a household name here in the United States, but in China, it is the go-to search engine for over 80% of its 1.35 billion citizens. It was also the first Chinese company to be listed on the NASDAQ-100 index, making it an easy company to compare to Google.
Like Google, Baidu has been branching out in recent years to social networking, mobile operating systems, and even self-driving cars.
Baidu says the Silicon Valley team will be known as Autonomous Driving Unit-US, or ADU-US. It will focus on areas integral to self-driving car development, including planning, perception, control and systems. ADU-US will work alongside Baidu’s existing Silicon Valley-based teams, including Baidu Research.
Earlier this month, Tesla opened its doors to receive pre-orders for its yet-to-be-unveiled Model 3. It received over 325,000 pro-orders – many of which were made sight unseen – in just a few days. One of the primary drivers of interest in this vehicle was Tesla’s self-driving mode that enables you to take your hands off the wheel and enjoy the ride while the car changes lanes, turns, and navigates you to where you want to go.
With interest in autonomous vehicles this high, it’s no surprise that Baidu has decided to jump in and develop its own platform that it can then partner with manufacturers like BMW to bring to market.
“Baidu is fully committed to making self-driving cars a reality,” said Jing Wang, SVP of Baidu and General Manager of Baidu’s Autonomous Driving Unit. “Autonomous vehicles will save lives and make transportation more efficient. Baidu’s Silicon Valley car team will play a significant role in building the car of the future.”