Baidu to launch self-driving buses in Japan next year
Chinese internet giant Baidu has announced a new partnership with SB Drive, a subsidiary of Japan's SoftBank. Under this, Baidu will produce 10 of its self-driving Apolong buses for SB Drive which it intends to deliver to Japan by early 2019 itself. The announcement was made at Baidu Create 2018, the company's annual AI developer conference in Beijing.
The Apolong bus sports Level 4 autonomy, which means it is "fully autonomous" but can't handle every possible driving scenario. The 14-passenger mini-bus uses Baidu's Apollo autonomous driving system, which, in the past, has been the basis for Baidu's partnerships with Ford, Honda, and other automobile companies. So far, Baidu has produced 100 Apolong buses in its plant in southern China.
At the developer conference, Baidu also unveiled an artificial intelligence (AI) chip called "Kunlun" to run intensive computing in autonomous driving and a range of other areas like data centers, natural language processing, and search rankings. The AI chip will rival the efforts of both local and global tech giants including networking company Huawei Technologies.
We need more of self-driving buses than self-driving cars. Public transportation is better for the environment and autonomous vehicles are predicted to be much safer than human drivers. Thus, self-driving buses could be the way to usher in an era of safer and environment-friendly transportation.