Baidu to launch self-driving car this year


Chinese web giant Baidu is planning to launch its first driverless car in the second half of 2015, rivalling the likes of Google and various car makers.

The firm had previously said it was working on such a car but did not say when it would be available.

The news, reported by Chinese language website TechWeb, will put it head to head with rival Google.

The firm will work with an unnamed car manufacturer, according to Baidu's senior vice president Jin Wang.

He made the announcement at the China Cloud Computing conference.

The firm has previously teamed up with BMW to develop semi-autonomous car technology
The head of Baidu's deep learning lab Yu Kai has previously told the press that the firm does not agree with Google's view of a completely autonomous car, looking instead to develop a vehicle that will retain the traditional pedals but give the driver greater freedom.

Artificial intelligence is rapidly becoming a key battleground for tech firms, with self-driving cars seen as one of the first practical applications for the technology.

Several Chinese technology firms, including e-commerce company Alibaba and WeChat messaging app provider Tencent, have announced plans for cars, shaking up the traditional industry in the world's largest auto market.

Alibaba is planning an "Internet car" that would use technology to provide a better driving experience including e-commerce, digital entertainment, map and communications services.

Tencent also has plans for an Internet-connected car, while Chinese video streaming platform Letv plans an electric vehicle.

But analysts say details of the automotive visions of Chinese technology firms remain vague, and commercial production is unlikely.

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