Baidu, which is the Chinese equivalent of Google, has just obtained the necessary authorisations to begin tests of its autonomous vehicles on certain streets in Beijing (China) and hopes to be able to deploy its self-driving cars in the country from 2019 onwards.
The Chinese authorities have just given permission for digital giant Baidu to test its driverless vehicles in genuine conditions on public roads in Beijing (China). The green light from the government will enable the Chinese equivalent of Google to have its driverless cars running on 33 different routes.
In total, Baidu will have 105 kilometres of roads on which to test its vehicles as part of a programme called Apollo, according to French website Numerama. Autonomous vehicles will be running in less densely populated suburban zones than the capital’s city centre.
Security the No.1 focus
Before launching its self-driving cars in zones shared with other vehicles and pedestrians, the company has stated that a first round of tests will be carried out using a simulator. This will then be followed by tests in traffic but on roads closed to the public. Only once these two stages are complete will the cars be allowed out into suburban traffic in Beijing. These precautions are more important than ever after the first ever fatality involving an autonomous vehicle from Uber occurred on 19 March at Tempe in Arizona.
Baidu will be using these tests to make the final adjustments required for the artificial intelligence which steers the cars to work perfectly and is counting on the real-time situations and the use of the data they will generate to achieve its stated aim, namely to use self-driving cars in the country by 2019.
Beijing coming into competition with Shanghai
This real-life testing will be a source of no little satisfaction for the tech giant’s engineers and also the authorities of the city of Beijing, who are hoping that it will prove to be a source of economic development. "With the support of the public authorities, we believe that Beijing will become a growth cluster for the autonomous driving sector," said Zhao Cheng, vice-president of Baidu.
Beijing will find itself however in competition with Shanghai for the status of the Chinese capital of autonomous vehicle testing. Before awarding the necessary permits to Baidu, the government had already authorised a start-up by the name of NIO and automotive manufacturer SAIC Motor to carry out tests of driverless cars in the largest city in the country.
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