A self-driving minibus service is coming to Japan in the early part of 2019 thanks to a partnership between Baidu and Softbank unit SB Drive and manufacturer King Long.
According to a report in TechCrunch, the agreement was announced at Creat Baidu, the Chinese company’s artificial intelligence (AI) developer conference. Under the deal, Baidu’s Apolong autonomous minibus will be shipped to Japan from China in the early part of next year. The order covers 10 buses and is the first time a self-driving vehicle is being exported from China. According to the report, the minibus has Baidu’s Apollo self-driving system capable of reaching Level 4 operations, which means it meet the SAE International standards for vehicles that can handle all driving conditions. The buses, noted the report, will be deployed in airports, tourist spots and other geo-fenced areas. Prior to the announcement, TechCrunch said, Baidu announced earlier at the conference that it had begun production of minibuses in a partnership with King Long. The buses are being manufactured in King Long’s China factory. A minibus service will also be launched in Chinese cities, noted the report.
In January BlackBerry, the Canadian maker of mobile devices, teamed up with Baidu to create self-driving car technology, according to news from TechCrunch. Through the partnership, BlackBerry’s QNX infotainment software will serve as the basis for Baidu’s Apollo self-driving platform. The project, named after NASA’s lunar landing program, consists of cloud services, an open software stack, reference hardware and vehicle platforms. In addition to Baidu’s self-driving platform, the company’s smartphone software for in-car use, DuerOS AI assistant and HD maps will all be integrated into BlackBerry’s QNX software. BlackBerry will be able to offer key features in the Chinese market, while Baidu will be able to provide the foundation for its open self-driving software project. A number of leading automakers and tech companies — such as Microsoft, Nvidia, and Intel — are already signed up for Baidu’s Apollo platform. It has attracted more than 1,700 domestic and international partners, including Daimler, Ford and Intel.