After a string of western companies gearing up to produce or collaborate upon driver-less cars, it is now the turn of Asian companies to expand upon the theme. Multiple senior officials, speaking on behalf of Chinese web services company Baidu, have stated time and again that the company will start mass producing driverless cars by 2021.
The claims, first made by Baidu chief scientist Andrew Ng, who believes that self-driving cars could be commercialized by 2019, with mass production kicking off in 2021, have attracted skepticism from various quarters, including from several prominent automakers. However, the claims have recently received the backing of Baidu senior VP Wang Jing, who said that Baidu is looking at mass production within 5 years.
Baidu is a fairly new entrant to the field. The company established its autonomous car R&D center in April, near Google’s offices in the Silicon valley. However, its moving quickly and has already started testing prototype models of its self-driving car on public roads in various Chinese cities, including Wuhu, Beijing and at a closed testing facility in Shanghai.
Mr. Jing was speaking at the Converge technology conference of The Wall Street Journal. He also said that the technology was still very mouldable and stuff like how cars communicate with each other on road, were subject to progressive change. Laws and policies — in China and elsewhere — on the other hand, should encourage development of the tech by becoming more accommodating to self-driving vehicles, rather than hindering it.
Speaking about the benefits of the introduction of Autonomous driving to public roads, Mr. Jing noted that almost 93 percent of the accidents that occur in China are due to human errors — something that can be eliminated, or at least significantly reduced by the introduction of AI.
Baidu is currently aiming to test it’s systems in almost 10 Chinese cities, so as to judge its performance under different traffic, road and weather conditions. Meanwhile, when asked about Google — which is really the Baidu of the west, or the other way around — and if the companies will face-off against each other over autonomous vehicles, Jing responded by stating that the niche was quite big enough for both the companies to operate in.