Volvo partners with Baidu to develop self driving cars
It wasn’t much later than 1990s, when the possibility of self-driving cars started to become more realistic. The breakthroughs in computer processing power, artificial intelligence, sensors, and robotic controls, forced companies like Google, Intel, Uber, Tesla and BMW to scramble to take the lead in the nascent field of autonomous vehicles (AVs). Now Volvo has joined the race as power shifts daily with new breakthroughs.
Volvo vehicle brand is well known for their dependability and tenacity to work under any adverse weather condition when every other vehicle would have given up. Baidu, on other hand is China's largest search engine firm which in recent years has been steadily increasing its presence known in the West increasingly, specialising in artificial intelligence and self-driving technology.
This partnership has one simple goal in mind, mass production of self driving electric cars in China. Volvo will bring its extensive knowledge in advanced technologies earned over the years in the auto industry, while Baidu provides its autonomous driving platform named “Apollo”.
Both firms have now confirmed their long term objectives, which is to sell vehicles that meet SAE International's Level 4 (L4) standard for driverless vehicles, meaning vehicles that do not require human intervention under certain conditions. Hakan Samuelsson, president and chief executive of Volvo Cars, said in a statement, “With Baidu we take a big step forward in commercialising our autonomous compatible cars, built on Volvo's industry-leading safety technology,".
"There is a strong development in autonomous drive in China, where Baidu is a leading player, and the market there offers huge opportunities for us as the supplier of choice for autonomous fleets." Ya-Qin Zhang, president of Baidu, further said in a statement, "Since it’s founding a century ago, Volvo has kept safety as its core mission, pushing safety development forward with significant innovations."
"We are very glad that Volvo Cars has established a strategic partnership with Baidu in the development of a fully autonomous car compatible with our autonomous driving platform Apollo. We look forward to working closely with Volvo to provide the world with the safest auto products for the benefit of humankind."
So both firms are happy with the partnership, and bring a much needed expertise to the table, however autonomous vehicles is a rapidly growing sector in China, with multiple tech firms in the country — including Baidu, Tencent and Didi Chuxing — all vying to own the space.
Baidu says that Apollo is “a complete open automatic driving ecosystem” enabling partners in the automotive industry and autonomous driving to combine vehicle software and hardware systems to quickly build their own complete AV system.
The Apollo platform consists of three parts: localisation, open-software platform, and cloud-service platform. Apollo also offers a simulation engine, which the company claims as “the only one in the world that is open and is equipped with massive data.” Baidu has also introduced a new Module aptly named Guardian, focused primarily with safety in mind. The Guardian, ensures the safety of the vehicle by carefully bring the vehicle to a stop during any emergency situations.
Volvo Cars said it expects to make a third of its annual sales from driverless cars by 2025, Baidu said in a statement that both companies aim to achieve "mass production of the autonomous cars over the next few years,” which in my opinion is a very ambitious target. It will be fair to say there are still some uncertainties when these cars will be launched, however as the race is in full swing and there is no podium place for second and third place, Volvo needs to pull out all the tricks they have learned to win that crown.