German automaker BMW and Chinese search giant Baidu might not be getting along too well these days.
According to Reuters, the two companies have ended their partnership and are no longer cooperating on nor testing self-driving cars in the US and China. The break down of their relationship reportedly resulted from “different opinions on how to proceed with research”, Olaf Kastner, BMW’s China CEO, told Reuters. They apparently had a different development paces and ideas, though he failed to be specific about the disagreement.
Last April, Baidu gave people another reason to call it the Google of China; it began investing deeply in a Silicon Valley self-driving car team. The company, which as of last December had 657 million monthly active users conducting mobile searches, has solidified its status as a Chinese search giant, but it’s also so much more. It offers close to 60 additional services, such as Baidu Encyclopedia (an index sort of like Wikipedia), Baidu Space (a social network), Baidu Games, Baidu Youa (an eCommerce platform), Baidu Yi (a mobile operating system). And it’s developing self-driving cars.
The company formed a team in Silicon Valley specifically for autonomous car efforts. The team, which is part of Baidu’s Autonomous Driving Unit, has been working with BMW on a joint project to produce a self-driving car for the Chinese market. Both companies completed the first successful tests of their driverless car in December 2015 using a retooled BMW 3 Series. BMW entered into a partnership with Baidu in 2014 and has been testing their mutual car tech in Beijing and Shanghai. But now that partnership has come to an end.
BMW’s Kastner said it parted ways with Baidu after they jointly developed “automatic overtaking capability”, which is a key milestone for self-driving technology, as it gives autonomous vehicles the ability to pass other cars at various speeds. BMW still plans to expand its research and development team in China, and it will continue to be partners with Baidu on high-definition maps, which are essential to autonomous navigation.
Baidu explained to Reuters that it’s using Ford vehicles for testing now. It’s been said that Baidu is looking to produce a car by 2018. Keep in mind that China published its roadmap last month for the development of self-driving cars that can drive in most situations.
China wants nearly every car to have some self-driving capability by 2030.
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