Baidu’s Driverless Cars on China’s Roads by 2020

Baidu showed off its driverless test mule BMW last week, and then today the company made another big move in this space. The biggest paradigm shift in transportation may not be from gasoline to electric, but from human to AI drivers. And that autonomous driving revolution may arrive sooner than the era of electric vehicles.

In 2025, 80 percent of newly manufactured cars globally will be autonomous, reckons Wang Jin, who works at Chinese search engine giant Baidu. He’s now in the driving seat of China’s most high-profile and advanced self-driving experiment after being appointed general manager of Baidu’s new Autonomous Driving unit today.

Baidu’s creation of a new business division for self-driving tech comes days after the company revealed that it has started tests of its autonomous car – a modified BMW – on public roads around Baidu’s HQ in the Chinese capital.

Baidu senior vice president Wang Jin was today made the boss of the firm’s brand-new Autonomous Driving unit.

Talking at an event this afternoon, he added that it’s Baidu’s intention to have commercial autonomous vehicles on the road within three years, and to be mass producing such vehicles within the next five. The company will make autonomous tech that combines its interests in artificial intelligence and mapping, but has given no indication that it will make actual cars.

Ready to roll?

Wang Jin’s forecast is more bold than most previous predictions for self-driving cars in 2025, in theory foreseeing as many as 90 million of them being manufactured that year if we use Goldman Sach’s estimate for new car purchases in 2025 whereby consumers will buy a record high 112 million vehicles in a single year. Juniper Research earlier this month estimated there’ll be 20 million autonomous vehicles on the road by that year.

Lord of the ring roads.

That seems more realistic given the current rollout of this new technology. Most new cars at present don’t even come with semi-autonomous tech as standard, reserving it for the pricey optional extras menu. Meanwhile, automakers like GM and Daimler have pinpointed 2025 as the first year that fully autonomous cars become available, so there may still be some reticence on the part of consumers at that stage – as well as price constraints that cause cheaper models to come with only semi-autonomous features.

Whatever the predicted numbers, Baidu is signalling that it wants to be among the first racing towards this huge new arena. The company hasn’t stated which automakers will use its AI driving tech.

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