Since Google doesn’t operate in China the gap that existed in the country’s interest for a search engine was filled by Baidu. The company is often colloquially referred to as the “Google of China,” and it appears that Baidu is going down the same road as its Mountain View counterpart. Following Google’s extensive work in self-driving cars, Baidu has said that it is also working on semi-autonomous car of its own.
Deputy director of Baidu’s machine learning unit, Kai Yu, told TNW that the company doesn’t view this project as a full-fledged driverless car since the primary aim here is to ensure that the driver continues to have control. The project aims to aid the driver while he or she have total control over the car.
Yu says that its actually “an intelligent assistant collecting data from road situations and then operating locally,” adding that he thinks “a car should be helping people, not replacing people, so we call this a highly autonomous car.”
He did draw a distinction between Google’s new self-driving car prototype and Baidu’s own project. The former doesn’t have a steering wheel or pedals since everything is done automatically by the car itself so drivers are essentially passengers who don’t have any input. Baidu will not remove the steering wheel or pedals from its car, the first prototypes of which it plans to introduce in 2015.
Baidu has a good base for this project. Since its one of the largest online service providers in China it already has huge amounts of data that can used to teach machines but the company will also have to work out issues involved with human safety on the road, particularly because pedestrians in China can be a bit more reckless.
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