Self-Driving Car Project Reaches Test Milestone, Baidu Saysby
Modified BMW completes 30-kilometer test drive near Beijing
Car traveled at speeds that peaked at 100km per hour
Baidu Inc.’s autonomous car ambitions keep revving along, with the Chinese search engine announcing Wednesday that a prototype vehicle has completed tests on a route with varied roads and environmental conditions.
A modified BMW 3 Series car successfully negotiated a 30-kilometer (18.6 miles) test drive around Beijing, which included complex driving actions such as U-turns, left turns, changing lanes, and merging into traffic from on-ramps. The route included highways with the car’s speed peaking at 100 kilometers per hour (62 mph), during the tests, the Beijing-based company said in a statement.
Baidu is racing rivals like Google and traditional automakers to develop self-driving vehicles. The company may introduce an autonomous car this year, Chief Executive Officer Robin Li said in March. Elon Musk’s Tesla Motors Inc. in October rolled out some self-driving features to its Model S cars.
Baidu hopes to develop vehicles that are “fully autonomous over a limited number of routes,” Andrew Ng, the company’s chief scientist, said in an interview. “If we can have a relatively controlled environment I think we’re in striking distance of putting cars on the road."
The company’s cars use a self-developed software package named “Baidu AutoBrain,” which incorporates technologies for driving, observing the environment and making decisions. All that intelligence doesn’t come cheap: One of the potential challenges for self-driving cars is the infrastructure required to make them intelligent, he said.
Today, the cars have “a small server” in their trunk that comes with a graphical processing unit -- a type of semiconductor adept at processing AI workloads. That draws quite a bit of electricity and means it is currently challenging to pair AI with electric cars. In the long term “it doesn’t feel like a big issue,” he said.