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Baidu CEO driving autonomous vehicle on roads in Beijing, causing police investigation

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【Summary】Baidu Founder and CEO Robin Li was seen sitting in a self-driving car in the livestream video that was launched in Baidu Create 2017 earlier today. And that has caused some controversy.

Original Claire    Jul 05, 2017 12:41 PM PT
Baidu CEO driving autonomous vehicle on roads in Beijing, causing police investigation

A recent video that was launched at the Baidu Create 2017 Conference in Beijing has gone viral and even caught police's attention. Baidu Founder and CEO Robin Li was seen sitting in a self-driving car in the livestream video that was launched in the event earlier today. And that has caused some controversy.

In the video, Li said he is on the way to the conference venue and now passing by Beijing's 5th Ring Road.

"The car that Mr. Li is riding, is a combined effort by Baidu's Apollo project and Bosch." Qi Lu, COO of Baidu said at the conference, and connected with Robin Li right away.

"There's much traffic on the road right now, but the feeling is awesome," Li said in the video call, "You could see that our test engineer is not touching the steering wheel at this moment." He added.

While the video does show off Baidu's recent development in self-driving vehicle project, whether such behavior is legal has become a controversial issue. Upon viewing the video, Chinese media Beijing Youth Daily contacted local police, who said they were already aware of the situation and had launched an investigation. Meanwhile, the officer who did not wish to be named told media that current traffic regulations do not allow driverless vehicles to be on the road.

Later Baidu commented that Gu Weihao, General Manager of Baidu's Intelligent Vehicle Division was sitting on the driver's seat as shown in the video, clarifying that it's not driverless "in a real sense".

However, regulators from Beijing Traffic Management Bureau told local media that currently there are no specific rules to control self-driving cars on road.

"But by law, a driver has to keep his hands on the steering wheel for sure. If found in driving, the person will definitely be stopped by police for questioning," staff from the traffic bureau told Chinese media The Paper.

Earlier in December 2015, Baidu took its first driverless car testing on public road with a maximum speed of 62 mph. Media learned that the company is currently applying for its driverless car testing permit from local traffic bureau.

However, Baidu hasn't responded in terms of whether Li had let the local regulators know of his self-driving test in advance.

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