Executives of German automaker BMW and Chinese Internet giant Baidu on Friday announced that the companies are ending their joint research on self-driving cars. Baidu has also divulged that it is already on the lookout for new global research partners.
Wang Jing, the head of autonomous car development at Baidu, said,
I’m open for any partners, I’m talking to many.
Baidu recently offered test drives using various independent driving prototypes developed separately with Chinese automakers Chery, BYD Co Ltd and BAIC Motor at the conference in Wuzhen. Interestingly, the test cars managed to automatically navigate their way without any hassle, avoiding bicycles and overtaking cars moving at various speeds.
According to BMW’s China CEO Olaf Kastner, the two companies were jointly developing the automatic overtaking capability before they made the decisions to part ways.
Kastner told Reuters at the Guangzhou auto show that the collaboration which involved testing in the United States and China had to broken because the companies held different opinions about how best to proceed with the research.
While not mentioning where the companies exactly disagreed, Kastner said,
We now have found that the development pace and the ideas of the two companies are a little different.
Although, a little difference shouldn’t have led to a schism between the two research partners., particularly in view of the setbacks they will now have to overcome. There is of course the possibility that when the companies saw their researches finally bearing fruit, they decided to walk different paths bearing it.
While Baidu is looking for global research partner after their fall out with BMW, Kastner revealed that the German automaker will be expanding its research and development team for further developing autonomous driving capabilities. The former partners have similar future plans. Baidu targets to commercialize autonomous cars on a small scale by 2018, with wider deployment by 2021. BMW also aims at launching fully autonomous cars by 2021, albeit its aims are slightly less clear.
Although both the companies are acting like the fall out has not affected their research, this may not be the case. Both of the companies will now have to plug the gaps left after the other
Tech and automotive leaders are all of the view that future cars will be capable of completely driving themselves. Almost all car makers as well as other tech companies like Alphabet’s Google and parts supplier Delphi are heavily investing resources and efforts into developing self driving capabilities. So yes, the competition quotient is certainly high and the split, does not come at a very good time.