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Honda Joins Baidu's Apollo Autonomous Driving Platform to Create HD Maps

Release Date:2019-02-01

TOKYO — Japan's Honda Motor is joining Baudi's Apollo autonomous driving platform, a global consortium led by Chinese tech giant Baidu aimed at advancing autonomous driving technology, as China races to become the world's largest market for driverless vehicles. With the announcement, Honda becomes the first Japanese automaker to join the Apollo platform.

The "Apollo Plan," launched in July 2017 by the internet service company, receives state funding as a critical national AI project. Road testing of commercial vehicles will start later this year, with passenger vehicle tests slated to begin next year.

Baidu's Apollo is a open, autonomous driving software platform and free for any organization to use. Apollo accelerates the development, testing, and deployment of autonomous vehicles. As participation grows, more accumulated data becomes available to partners to use as needed, including the IP, technology and source code. Compared to a closed ecosystem, Apollo open platform accelerates the advancement of self-driving technology.

Honda is the first Japanese automaker to join the initiative. Apollo's roughly 100 partners include major automotive companies such as Ford, Daimler and Bosch, as well as U.S. tech giants Microsoft and Intel.

Honda plans to use expertise gained from an advanced car navigation system it has offered since 2015 along with other features to create high-resolution maps for autonomous driving.

Digital maps or HD maps containing large volumes of data, including roads, buildings, moving vehicles and elevation, which are crucial to making autonomous driving a reality across China's vast land mass.

Honda has been deepening its collaboration with Chinese tech companies recently. It works with Hong Kong startup SenseTime on image recognition for autonomous driving and with e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding on connected cars.

At present, the U.S. is ahead in development of autonomous driving technology, with road tests taking place in various states. Waymo, the self-driving unit of parent company Alphabet, has racked up nearly 7 million miles of autonomous testing on public roads. But China is catching up quickly.

PwC Consulting in Tokyo projects that China is expected to have 33 million autonomous vehicles on the road by 2030, compared with 20 million in the U.S. The country is said to have a vast talent pool that can contribute to AI development. As next-generation technologies advance in China, it becomes increasingly important for Japanese companies to have strong research operations there.

In March, Baidu announced the release of ‘Apollo Scape', billed as the world's largest open-source dataset for autonomous driving technology. This dataset can be utilized for perception, simulation scenes, road networks etc., as well as enabling autonomous vehicles to be trained in more complex urban driving environments, weather and traffic conditions.

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