July 5, 2018
Baidu, the Chinese tech giant is all set to launch its first self-driven bus service in collaboration with Chinese manufacturer King Long and an autonomous driving subsidiary of SoftBank, SB Drive. These busses are being produced under the autonomous driving platform Apollo. Named as Apolong the bus has the capacity to seat 14 people. The announcement was made at the company’s annual AI conference.
According to the company’s CEO Robin Li, 100 busses have already been manufactured and ready to hit the roads of China and Japan in early 2019.
In April 2017, Baidu launched its secure and reliable autonomous driving system, Apollo 3.0. The latest version has new features that support valet parking, autonomous mini busses and microcars. The system is integrated with voice activation telematics software with facial recognition, a monitoring system for tired drivers and personalized services.
Apolong busses are equipped with Apollo 3.0. Baidu is not interested in manufacturing self-driven cars itself but is only willing to provide the system for them.
Deployment of Apolong
Baidu’s Apolong will initially be deployed in all the major cities of China, Beijing, Shenzhen, Pingtan and Wuhan. Passengers will be able to enjoy the ride of this very first mass-produced autonomous minibus, at the airport and some famous tourist places. By early 2019, it will be seen in Tokyo as well. The contract between China and Japan is initially for 10 busses however they will be the first ever autonomous vehicles exported from China.
As the technology of artificial intelligence is growing at a rapid pace, almost every industry is adopting it. The best scope is in autonomous vehicles industry and as all the tech giants are introducing their self- driven cars, a minibus by Baidu for mass transit is definitely a huge step not only for the company but to the country of China as well.