Baidu, Inc, SB Drive, a subsidiary of Softbank dedicated to self-driving technology research, have announced a strategic partnership to jointly develop and deploy a version of the Apolong self-driving mini bus for the Japanese market. Under the agreement, ten Apolong mini buses will be exported to Japan from China in early 2019. This agreement marks the first time autonomous vehicles will be exported from China.
Apolong is a fully autonomous mini bus co-developed by Baidu and King Long. The mini bus is powered by the Apollo open source autonomous driving technologies created by Baidu and is China’s first fully self-driving electric bus to enter the volume production phase. At Baidu Create, Baidu’s annual AI developer conference held on July 4 in Beijing, more than 6,000 attendees witnessed a live stream of the 100thApolong bus leaving the assembly line.
Baidu’s Global Business Unit works with local partners to deploy Baidu’s AI technologies and products overseas, especially key projects like the Apollo open autonomous driving technology and the DuerOS conversational AI platform.
The Apollo open autonomous driving platform was launched last year and is one of the world’s largest and most diverse autonomous driving ecosystems. Since its launch, the platform has garnered 116 global partners from automotive and technology industries, including Ford, Bosch, Velodyne, Intel, NVIDIA and Microsoft.
As a member of Apollo, King Long began working with Baidu in October 2017 to develop the Apolong buses. The first fleet will be deployed in geo-fenced places like parks, industrial campuses and airports in five Chinese cities. In the same year, SB Drive, a subsidiary under SoftBank dedicated to autonomous vehicles research and development, conducted autonomous bus testing in Okinawa as part of the “Autonomous Driving System” program designated by the Cabinet Office of Japan. This made them an ideal partner for this project.
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.
In the future, Baidu Global Business Unit will continue to promote open collaborations and partnerships on technology, product, talent and capital to accelerate the deployment of AI.