Baidu announces ‘Android for cars’ to share autonomous tech as data sharing calls grow

19 April 2017

19 April 2017

The Transport Systems Catapult (TSC), a UK state-linked innovation centre, has warned in a new report that innovation in UK transport is at risk because data is not being shared in the sector. This is a growing problem holding back emerging transport innovation worldwide. 

Factors restricting the flow of information in the UK transport network include fears over cyber security, lack of ′data literacy’ skills and the legacy of regarding different modes of transport such as rail and road in isolation, rather than as a joined-up mobility solution to get people efficiently from place to place. These factors, outlined in the report, are said to be preventing the UK from unlocking the full potential of its transport network and that, according to the TSC, successfully joining up the approach could unlock £14 billion (€16.8 billion) by 2025, allowing the UK to reap the benefits of additional innovations. 

Opportunity areas ripe for full exploitation, according to the report, include technologies such as driverless cars, journey planning apps and smart ticketing – if a strong data regime is set up that makes openly available for sharing as much data as possible while respecting privacy. 

To this end, the TSC is calling for the establishment of a new Mobility Data Hub to enable the public and private sectors to join up and work together to maximise the innovation benefits of an open data sharing environment. The TSC is calling on not only the UK government to work closely with it, but also industry to achieve this, so that together a data culture can be developed. This can lead to the creation of a framework that acts as the frontispiece for secure access to data, including guidelines for data access and sharing. 

Chinese search giant Baidu has proposed its own solution to the problem with the launch of its forebodingly-named ′Apollo Project’, which aims to become a core part of the future car industry data sharing puzzle, by following many of the principles Google used to dominate the smartphone world with Android. 

Announced at the Shanghai Auto Show on Wednesday, Baidu – which has been testing autonomous vehicles in California since September last year – is planning to open up its self-driving technology secrets to rivals through what it describes as an open, complete and reliable software platform for partners in the automotive and autonomous driving industry, which will allow them to develop their own autonomous driving systems. 

Baidu will open up its technology in phases, starting in July, when it will share its intellectual property (IP) for ′restricted environment driving’, before sharing its technology for autonomous cars running in simple urban conditions by the end of the year. This will culminate by 2020 with the release of the IP for ′fully autonomous driving capabilities on highways and open city roads.’ 

Open sourcing of automotive technologies seems to be increasing, with Toyota and Ford forming an open source SmartDeviceLink partnership in January, joined by other major OEMs, to open up their connected car services to digital assistants – believed to be a move to encourage innovation and prevent Google’s Android Auto and Apple’s CarPlay dominating the industry. Tesla also offered its tech secrets to rivals in 2014 in a response designed to encourage greater interest in low-emission vehicles. 

Baidu is widely regarded as the Chinese leader in artificial intelligence technology, considered on a level with IBM and Google in the field. 

Baidu’s chief operating officer Qi Lu said on Wednesday: ′AI has great potential to drive social development, and one of AI’s biggest opportunities is intelligent vehicles.’