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Jul 28, 2018,  by Allianz Partners Business Insights

Self-driving minibuses: Baidu begins large-scale production

The mass production of the Apolong, a self-driving minibus from Chinese giant Baidu, has begun and a hundred vehicles have already been produced. The driver-free bus, which can transport up to 14 people, is due to be used in airports and touristic areas first. It will then be rolled out to large cities before being sent out to Japan.

On Wednesday 4th July in Beijing (China), Chinese internet giant Baidu announced that they have started mass producing the Apolong, their self-driving minibus. This is the first vehicle of its kind to be developed in China, reported Objet connectés. A hundred models have already left the King Long production line, a Chinese bus manufacturer.


Detecting and adapting to their environment


These public transport vehicles are equipped with the level 4 Apollo self-driving system – the fruit of Baidu’s work. This sensor system enables the mini-van to detect any elements present in its environment (other road users, pedestrians) and to react to them, but also to anticipate how they might move. There is no need for a driver on board an Apolong!

The vehicle steers its way around thanks to a system that calculates the optimum route using detectors and high-definition maps. The minibuses will first be used in China, announced the CEO of Baidu. To begin with, the 4.30m-long buses will each transport a maximum of 14 passengers around the country’s airports and tourist sites.


After China, Japan?


Baidu have also planned to roll out the Apolong in the Chinese cities of Wuhan, Xiongan, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. After that, Baidu’s self-driving vehicles may be used abroad, namely in Tokyo (Japan), where the minivans would make it easier to get around retirement homes or nuclear power plants.

On 3rd July, Baidu announced their partnership with Intel, to integrate Mobileye – a subsidiary of Intel – technology into their driving systems. The “computer vision” kits developed by the firm will be an integral part of the equipment on board the self-driving vehicles destined for the Chinese market – and should help to improve the latter.


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