Baidu, Inc. announced some days ago that it has begun volume production of Apolong, China’s first L4 fully autonomous bus.
The announcement was made at Baidu Create 2018, the company’s annual AI developer conference.
Developed in partnership with Chinese bus manufacturer King Long and powered by Baidu’s Apollo autonomous driving open platform, the self driving bus will start off commercial operation in several Chinese cities including Beijing, Shenzhen, Xiongan, Wuhan and Pingtan of Fujian province.But Baidu and King Long also eye overseas markets.
Apolong microbus can carry up to 14 people, and is powered by Apollo autonomous driving system. It can complete self-driving operations such as obstacle avoidance, swerve and automatic transshipment. Apolong will initially operate in last-mile travel scenarios in tourist spots, airports and other geo-fenced areas.
The production volume of Apolong has reached 100 units at its manufacturing facility in Xiamen, in southeastern China’s Fujian province. Baidu’s Chairman and CEO Robin Li also announced this milestone at the conference.
“2018 marks the first year of commercialization for autonomous driving. From the volume production of Apolong, we can truly see that autonomous driving is making great strides – taking the industry from zero to one,” he said during his keynote address.
Japan, first overseas market
First of foreign markets will be Japan. Thanks to an agreement between Baidu King Long and SB Drive, the autonomous driving subsidiary of Japan’s SoftBank Group,first units of Apollong will be shipped to this Asian in early 2019 to start operations in big cities such as Tokyo at hte begining of the mentioned year.
“Autonomous vehicles will have a profound impact on our society. We are very excited to bring the Apolong mini bus to Japan and work with local experts to unlock the benefits of this transformative technology. The open collaborations between engineers and researchers from both countries will undoubtedly accelerate the development of autonomous vehicles,” said Charles Zhang, President and CEO of Baidu Japan Inc., who led the project.
“We are excited to be partners with Baidu and King Long on this innovative project to help accelerate the adoption of self-driving technology in Japan,” said Yuki Saji, CEO of SB Drive Corp. “In Japan, public transportation is facing a number of challenges, including traffic network reduction, driver shortage and driver aging. We expect self-driving technology will solve these problems in the near future. Launching Apolong is an important step to maintain public transportation in Japan.”
Aside from the latest success with the buses, Baidu’s Global Business Unit has successfully commercialized various AI products overseas. In Japan, Baidu’s AI powered voice keyboard, Simeji, has become Japan’s largest Japanese Kaomoji and Emoji content provider. The high-quality native ad recommendation platform, PopIn, has also covered most mainstream media in Japan, South Korea, Singapore and other countries.
Continuing its rapid pace of development, Baidu introduced Apollo 3.0, the newest upgrade to the platform, just one year after its debut at the inaugural Baidu Create 2017.
Apollo 3.0 includes new solutions supporting valet parking, autonomous mini buses and autonomous microcars. These new solutions aim to help prepare partners for volume production, evidence of which can already be seen in the volume production of NEOLIX AX1 L4 autonomous microcars for logistics and transport that are already operational in the Chinese cities of Xiongan and Changzhou.
“Apollo 3.0 marks a new era for the volume production of autonomous vehicles. We believe that safety is the foundation of volume production. Apollo will continue to work with our partners to push forward the transition to intelligent vehicles from traditional vehicles,” said Zhenyu Li, Vice President and General Manager of Baidu’s Intelligent Driving Group.
Apollo has now brought together 116 partners on the open platform. It laid out plans to achieve volume production of L3 autonomous vehicles by 2020 with BYD, China’s leading electric car manufacturer and has formed new strategic cooperation with Jaguar Land Rover, Valeo, Byton, Leopard Imaging and Suning Logistics. The platform has amassed more than 220,000 lines of code with over 10,000 developers recommending Apollo open source software.
New voice activated AI telematics to enhance in-car experience
At the event, Baidu also showcased a voice-activated AI telematics OS, a solution to enhance the in-car experience by enabling human-vehicle interaction. Leveraging DuerOS, Baidu’s conversational AI system, the system’s capabilities include human-vehicle conversation, facial recognition entry, driver fatigue monitoring, AR navigation, intelligent security, vehicle-to-home (V2H) connection and personalized services and content such as providing recommendations and ordering food by voice command.
Image over the headline.- Apolong, a fully autonomous L4 mini bus developed by Baidu Apollo in collaboration with King Long, has reached 100 units in volume production at its manufacturing facility in Xiamen, China’s Fujian province.© Baidu USA, LLC
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