The race for autonomous driving is taking place mainly between the Chinese and the Americans. The eastern equivalent to Google, Baidu, has its car division, Jidu Auto, which will not only make electric cars, but also smart vehicles. Its objectives point out ways: 800,000 units with autonomous driving by 2028.
Robin Li, chief executive of Baidu, said, “We believe that when it comes to smart cars, being electric is semi-finals, and being smart is final,” referring to Tesla. Mass production will start next year. Its first model was anticipated by the Jidu Robo-01, presented in June in prototype form (header image). It will be practically traced to the production model, its similarity is around 90%.
This vehicle can be controlled by voice and doesn’t even have door handles. In addition, Baidu introduced the Apollo RT6 in July, with level 4 autonomous driving capability, whose steering wheel can be hidden while not needed. Next year it will enter service within Apollo Go, the company’s robotic-driven car rental division. Like a taxi, but without a human driver.
Baidu has already accumulated an experience of one million trips with Apollo Go, carried out with first-generation vehicles, throughout 10 Chinese cities. So many tests have allowed the Apollo RT6 to have a history of 32 million kilometers traveled in its autonomous system and its driving is equivalent to that of an expert with 20 years behind the wheel.
In 2024 there will be another model. Baidu aims to eat up traditional VTC companies and offer significantly cheaper rides in urban areas, as there will be no driver to pay. There will also be a truck model, anticipated by the Xingtu prototype. One of the main technological differences between Baidu and Tesla is the use of LiDAR.
While Tesla cars already trust everything to the Tesla Vision system, through cameras with computerized vision, in China they continue to think that it is a mistake not to bet on LiDAR to complement the cameras. The Apollo RT6 comes with 12 video cameras and eight LiDAR sensors. But Elon Musk’s company, believe that it is better to delegate everything to cameras because we as humans capture 90% of the information through sight.