Baidu's Apollo now has the biggest group of partnerships in the self-driving car race, receiving support from 50 different companies around the globe. The Chinese Internet conglomerate has taken the less popular move to open its driverless car program to global industry leaders with the goal to make Apollo the 'Android of the autonomous driving industry'.
Baidu continues to expand beyond the borders of China for Apollo through new partnerships inked with companies like Microsoft, Ford, Intel, Nvidia, and Bosch. Its self-driving car program has been supported by China's top-rank universities, government institutions, and private corporations.
In his speech yesterday at the company's artificial intelligence developer conference, Baidu Create, held in Beijing, company chief operating officer Qi Lu dubbed Apollo as the "Android of the autonomous driving industry, but more open and powerful".
"Apollo is an important milestone for the automotive industry," says Lu. "It is in essence the 'Android' of the autonomous driving industry, but more open and more powerful."
Apollo is aimed at providing partners with tools—APIs, open source code, data, reference hardware—to aid them to carry the envisioned driverless vehicle into reality. With the help of these companies, Baidu is optimistic that the Apollo car will begin hitting the streets as soon as the end of 2020.
"Apollo is not solely Baidu's. It belongs to everyone in the ecosystem. And as we and our partners contribute to the platform in our areas of specialty, we all gain more, with the results far greater than just our own," notes the executive.
Microsoft has revealed that it is thrilled to become a part of Baidu's endeavours for this particular project. Speaking to MSPoweruser, a company spokesperson said it is "excited to join the open Apollo ecosystem". However, details of the partnership will be revealed soon. Microsoft is expected to bank on Cortana as a contribution to the Apollo project.