Baidu Announces $1.5B Fund for Self-Driving Car Startups

Mindy Sparks
September 22, 2017

Named the "Apollo Fund", after the NASA moon landing, the Chinese internet company aims to invest in 100 self-driving vehicle projects over the next three years.

The new Apollo fund is still in the process of raising money, and aims to spend the eventual 10 billion yuan total over three years on more than 100 projects, the company said at an event on Wednesday.

The company has also released Apollo 1.5, its latest iteration of Apollo open source self-driving platform, which is now claimed to have 70 partners. The software offers five new capabilities to the Apollo platform including high definition maps, obstacle perception, planning, cloud stimulation and end-to-end deep learning.

Apollo is Baidu's autonomous driving platform, with Chinese and worldwide 70 partners so far, including latest members Hyundai Motor, ROS, esd electronics, Neousys Technology and autonomous driving startups Momenta and iDriver+ Technologies.

It also helps a lot that their Project Apollo is an open source platform.

Baidu has also signed almost 50 cooperation agreements with its partners on mass production and joint development plans.

Baidu released its news about self-driving vehicles after joining forces with China Life Insurance launch a private equity fund of $1 billion targeting new investment opportunities in artificial intelligence, the Internet, online finance as well as mobility sectors, during August.

"Apollo doesn't equate to Baidu", company Vice President Wu Xuebin told Caixin, adding that Baidu was hoping to profit from the project by offering support through means like cloud-based services.

The driverless auto race is paramount for Baidu, as it seeks to transition into an AI-first company after its core search business was hammered by the Chinese government's tighter controls over online medical advertisements.

Together with the funding, Baidu is also announcing the 1.5 update to their Apollo platform.

Baidu is hoping to have its vehicles ready for driving in China by 2020, but it may face several challenges from Chinese regulators, who have stopped it previously from testing its vehicles on highways.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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