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Volvo in Pact With Baidu to Develop Autonomous Cars for China

Release Date:2019-02-01

Baidu, China’s biggest search engine, is aiming to match Alphabet Inc.’s push into the technology through Waymo and has signed a number of deals for self-driving cars with collaborators. In July, Baidu unveiled Apollo 3.0, the latest iteration of its open-source platform that counts more than 100 partners from chipmakers to car manufacturers.

Baidu CEO Robin Li Speaks at Annual Baidu World Event

Hakan Samuelsson.

Photographer: Giulia Marchi/Bloomberg

“The idea is to develop a car -- our part is the car, their part is the software,” said Volvo Chief Executive Office Hakan Samuelsson. “These cars will not necessarily look the same as in the private sector.”

Click here for more on: Who’s Winning the Self-Driving Car Race?

The partners will aim to manufacture Level 4 robotaxi’s in China after 2020, although commercial agreements haven’t yet been signed. Level 4 means the vehicles will be fully autonomous within a mapped-out area.

Volvo, owned by China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co Ltd., already aims to offer driverless models by 2021 using software developed by Zenuity, a joint venture with Sweden’s Veoneer AB. It’s also working with Uber Technologies Inc. to develop autonomous systems for XC90 sport utility vehicles.

Getting into China poses particular challenges. The high-definition maps needed for cars to find their way safely without human help are out of bounds for non-Chinese companies, meaning anyone looking to sell driverless cars needs a local partner.

Wanted in China: Detailed Maps for 30 Million Self-Driving Cars

Baidu is one of 14 entities licensed to produce maps for autonomous vehicles in China. The company’s first self-driving autos will be developed with China’s Chery Automobile Co. and it also aims to make driverless cars in partnership with Chinese automaker BAIC Group by 2021.

On Wednesday, Ford Motor Co. and Baidu revealed a two-year autonomous vehicle test project with on-road testing slated to begin by the end of this year.

China is the world’s largest auto market and is also expected to play a dominant role in the global market for self-driving cars. The mainland’s autonomous vehicle market could be worth $500 billion by 2030, according to McKinsey & Co. Volvo said it expects to generate one-third of annual sales from autonomous cars from around 2025.

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