Google has said that its goal is to reach widespread distribution of its self-driving car by 2020, but Chinese search giant Baidu might beat the Mountain View company. Today, Baidu, often referred to as the “Chinese Google” announced that its self-driving car successfully completed its first route through Beijing.
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Baidu says that its autonomous vehicle, a modified BMW 3-Series, completed an 18.6-mile journey throughout Beijing that took it through both side streets and highways. The car performed left and right turns, u-turns, changed lanes, passed other vehicles, and merged on and off the highway without any issues (via Wired).
While Google’s self-driving cars have collected more than 1.7 million miles of driving, it’s a big step for both China and Baidu to have their first self-driving car on the roads. Baidu is not a company that often comes to mind when people think of autonomous driving, but today’s revelation may change that.
Baidu and BMW promised earlier this year to launch a self-driving car by the end of 2015, but it’s clear by this point that “launch” didn’t mean widespread use or availability. Baidu has been working on its self-driving car project in its deep learning research lab since 2013.
Baidu says that it wants to create a car that is about “to advance incrementally through different environments, rather than through different levels of driving autonomy.” It wants to create things like self-driving buses that drive the same routes everyday, not fully autonomous vehicles like Google’s. Baidu’s idea is that if it can create precise maps, there’s no reason it can’t accomplish its goal.
Google’s self-driving cars have been involved in 11 minor accidents during its 1.7 million miles of testing, but none of the accidents were the car’s fault.