BYD and Baidu Promise Self-driving Cars in Three Years

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【Summary】Chinese automaker BYD is a leader in the electric car market. Now, it will team up with the country's largest search engine company, Baidu, to build the self-driving, internet car of the future.

Mia Bevacqua    Sep 08, 2018 9:47 AM PT
BYD and Baidu Promise Self-driving Cars in Three Years

For those in the Western Hemisphere, it's all about Tesla. But in China, BYD, the world's best-selling plug-in electric car manufacturer, reigns supreme. The Shaanxi-based company makes everything from zero-emissions buses, to an electrified MPV. And now, it intends to start building autonomous vehicles.

BYD, which is backed by Warren Buffet, hopes to launch its first self-driving car within three years. Its chairman and president, Wang Chuanfu, said he wants to make the company's products more intelligent, like a "super mobile phone on wheels".

To meet that goal, BYD will work with Baidu, a Chinese tech company based in Beijing. Often referred to as the "Google of China", the internet giant commands around 70% of the country's web-based searches.

Baidu is also in the business of building self-driving vehicles – it has already delivered more than 100 Autonomous buses. Plus, it launched an open-source, autonomous vehicle platform named Apollo in 2017. BYD was one of 100 companies to partner on the project, and its Qin Pro electric car will serve as a test vehicle for the program.

As Chuanfu indicated, in the end, the two companies hope to create an intelligent car (also known as an internet vehicle). Instead of being just transportation, their automobile will be another smart device, equipped with GPS and streaming entertainment. Of course, autonomy is necessary because it allows occupants to become fully immersed in what's on their screens.

"The new era of intelligent vehicles has arrived and by 2035, they will dominate the streets," Chuanfu said.

BYD initially started out as producer of phone batteries, in 1995. It wasn't until 2008 that the company introduced its first electric vehicle. Although sales of electric cars are currently on the decline in China, due to changes in policy, BYD is still poised to be a forerunner in building the car of tomorrow.

Sources: South China Morning Post, CNBC, Quartz

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