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Zhenyu Li, VP and general manager, Baidu’s Intelligent Driving Group, with Klaus Fröhlich, board member for development, BMW AG.
Image: BMW AG

BMW Group and Suning Logistics have both announced that they are joining Apollo, Baidu’s open, shared autonomous driving platform. Apollo, launched in July 2017, now involves 118 global partners across the automotive and technology sectors.

The BMW Group is working with other OEM and technology partners on a scalable autonomous driving platform spanning Level 2 ADAS to Level 3 and Level 4/5 systems. It has signed a memorandum of understanding with Baidu, with whom it is already working on internet-of-vehicles technologies.

“We are striving for consistent technology standards globally to overcome today’s regional discrepancy regarding speed of implementation and regulatory framework,” said Klaus Fröhlich, BMW AG board member for development, in a statement. “With BMW Group and Baidu joining forces we can significantly accelerate the alignment of specific requirements and technological approaches to turn the vision of autonomous driving into reality for Chinese customers very soon.”

Driverless deliveries from Suning

suning-microcar-300x222 Suning-Baidu MicroCar
Image: Suning

Also joining Baidu Apollo in a strategic partnership is China’s Suning Logistics, a subsidiary of Suning Holdings Group, which suggests It could be deploying unmanned, driverless delivery vehicles as early as 2020. Suning and Baidu have unveiled a vehicle concept called MicroCar in Beijing: this uses Baidu’s Level 4 technology.

Suning proposes MicroCar for scenarios including local ‘last 5km’ deliveries and automatic pick-ups, and mobile distribution along a fixed route. It intends to introduce unmanned vehicles first to supplement couriers in its current Local Instant Delivery service from Suning convenience stores; this will follow the tests it has already completed of self-driving heavy trucks, and its use of automated guided vehicles (AGVs) in its Jinan warehouse. It aims to provide fully-automated, AI-powered logistics solutions including self-driving trucks, AVs and robots.

VP of Suning Logistics Lu Junfeng said in a statement: “By combining the rich smart community scenarios built by Suning, and the advanced unmanned self-driving technology developed by Baidu in its Apollo program, we are now significantly closer to realizing the commercialization of fully autonomous, self-driving technology.”

Hyundai continues its collaboration, joins Apollo as well

Hyundai has also announced more details of its partnership with Baidu and their ongoing plans. A collaborative project is to co-develop connected car and internet-of-vehicles services, first of all looking at in-car content such as real-time traffic status and live data, based on maps, artificial intelligence, big data and portal services. It will advance the application of AI, and Hyundai vehicles will feature Baidu’s Xiaodu In-Car OS, an open AI-based platform currently supporting infotainment, dashboard, a smart rear-view mirror and an in-car communication robot which responds to voice commands and interacts with driver and passengers.

Hyundai and Baidu will further work on voice recognition, integrating Baidu’s natural language processing and Hyundai’s noise cancellation technologies, and will continue their joint work on vehicle-to-home IoT services; Hyundai also announced its participation in the Apollo program last month.

-Farah Alkhalisi