Baidu May Introduce Autonomous Car This Year, CEO Says

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Baidu CEO Robin Li
Billionaire Robin Li, Chief Executive Officer of Baidu Inc. Photographer: Jerome Favre/Bloomberg

Baidu Inc. may introduce an autonomous car this year as the owner of China’s largest Internet search engine joins companies from Google Inc. to Apple Inc. in developing connected vehicles.

Baidu has been researching the smart car and is working with auto manufacturers, Chief Executive Officer Robin Li said in Beijing today, where he is attending meetings of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. He declined to name the automaker partners.

China’s Information Technology and Industry Minister Miao Wei said last week that he would encourage companies outside the traditional auto industry to tie up with existing manufacturers to spur innovation and competition.

“Marrying traditional and the cutting edge can speed up the evolution of the auto industry,” said Han Weiqi, an analyst with CSC International Holdings in Shanghai. “IT companies have an edge in areas like big data, cloud technology and Internet of things, where traditional automakers are weak.”

Among other Chinese companies, Leshi Internet Information & Technology (Beijing) Co., a maker of Web-enabled TVs, has said it would invest billions of dollars into developing a connected electric car.

Apple has been working on an electric auto and is pushing to begin production as early as 2020, people with knowledge of the matter said last month. Google said in January it aims to have a self-driving car on the road within five years.

Baidu’s Li also said today that the company will introduce lending applications very soon, without being more specific.

— With assistance by Tian Ying

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