Chinese internet search provider Baidu created a 10 billion yuan ($1.52 billion) fund to invest in autonomous vehicle projects and released the latest version of its open-source autonomous vehicle software, the company announced yesterday.
The goal of the Apollo Fund, named for the software and NASA’s moon-landing program, is to fund 100 projects over the next three years, the statement said. The company hopes the fund can help stimulate technological development in the industry to have its fully autonomous cars on the road in China by 2020.
The Apollo 1.5 autonomous vehicle software has added five new capabilities: obstacle perception, planning, cloud simulation, high-definition maps and end-to-end deep learning. Baidu originally opened the Apollo software to third parties in April to drive development and better compete with competitors like Tesla and Google’s Waymo. Apollo 1.0 was released in July.
The company now has 70 partners working with the Apollo program, including Hyundai, Nvidia, Microsoft Cloud and Bosch, up from 50 in July. Some partners have already employed the software in their projects, such as vehicle manufacturer King Long — which tested autonomous buses using Apollo 1.0 in an enclosed space — and autonomous driving startup Momenta, which tested Apollo 1.5-enabled cars in designated lanes.
The Apollo platform consists of a core software stack, a number of cloud services and self-driving hardware. Because Apollo is open source, other companies are able to build upon the system and share their results in order to drive development. The project was introduced as a way to continue the company’s work after its chief scientist Andrew Ng, the Stanford professor brought in to run Baidu’s AI program and implement machine learning in everything from search to products to cars, left the company in March.
China has set a goal to have 10% to 20% of its vehicles be highly autonomous by 2025 and 10% of cars to be fully self-driving by 2030.