China's Baidu Plugs `Apollo 2.0' Self-Driving Platform in Vegas

  • It’s set up a $200 million fund with Asia Mobility Industries
  • Baidu’s still playing catch-up to Google in road-testing

Electric Cars and Autonomous Vehicles in the Spotlight at CES

Baidu Inc. unveiled a souped-up version of its open self-driving platform, declaring rapid progress with partners from Microsoft Corp. to TomTom NV in developing autonomous cars for China and beyond.

China’s largest search engine used the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to announce an upgrade for its Apollo software, which it says will allow cars to drive on some city roads day or night. It also inked a deal to employ TomTom’s maps, and set up a $200 million fund with Singapore’s Asia Mobility Industries to invest in and promote the platform in Southeast Asia.

Baidu is attempting to match rivals like Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo, whose cars have already plied millions of miles free of direct human control. While companies based in America have been able to test their vehicles on public roads, local Chinese governments only recently allowed portions of its infrastructure under select conditions to be used by autonomous vehicles.

But by open-sourcing its technology in a manner similar to Google’s Android operating system, Baidu is hoping to supercharge the development of its technology and become China’s leading driverless car developer. It’s partnered with over 90 providers from Blackberry to chipmaker Nvidia Corp. Apollo will support four main computing platforms -- Nvidia, Intel, NXP and Renesas -- in 2018, it said in a statement.

— With assistance by David Ramli, and Yan Zhang

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