Chinese internet giant Baidu has signed an agreement with major global carmakers, Volvo and Ford, that will help put China at the centre of a massive autonomous electric car market push.
The two auto giants announced agreements with the Chinese internet company this week, which has already been testing its self-driving technology, dubbed Project Apollo, both in China and the US.
The move by both companies is calculated; China has already been proven as the largest market in the world for electric cars, and Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts this trend will see it grab a staggering 42 per cent share of the global EV market by June 2019.
Analysts predict that China will be a centre for autonomous driving also, with the potential for 14.5 million autonomous vehicles – almost half the predicted global volume of 33 million – to be sold there alone.
Swedish carmaker Volvo will be providing its automotive expertise to Baidu, and says that its choice to partner with the Chinese internet giant is based around a common goal of safety.
“With Baidu we take a big step forward in commercialising our autonomous compatible cars, built on Volvo’s industry-leading safety technology,” said Volvo president and chief exec Håkan Samuelsson.
“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.”
“We look forward to working closely with Volvo to provide the world with the safest auto products for the benefit of humankind,” said Dr. Ya-Qin Zhang, President of Baidu.
While the fruits of Volvo’s labour with Baidu are yet to materialise, Ford has already established a relationship with the Chinese company, having completed test vehicle modifications.
The agreement inked with Ford builds on the existing relationship to form a two-year project that will see the car maker develop Level 4 autonomous driving abilities (where the driver can take their mind, as well as their eyes, off the road).
“Working with a leading tech partner like Baidu allows us to leverage new opportunities in China to offer innovative solutions that improve safety, convenience and the overall mobility experience,” says Ford’s autonomous division president and chief Sherif Marakby.
“This project marks a new milestone in the partnership between Ford and Baidu, and supports Ford’s vision to design smart vehicles that transform how we get around.”
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.