The Chinese tech giant Baidu has begun public testing of its self-driving vehicle technology along a 2 mile (3.16 kilometer) stretch of road in Wuzhen, China. The city is a popular tourist destination, and thus an interesting choice for a test location.
As of Tuesday, the self-driving cars had completed trips for more than 200 people. The vehicles in question — outfitted with cameras, Velodyne LiDAR, millimeter wave radar, and a computer located in the trunk to process and interpret all of the input data — are, as in pilot programs elsewhere, accompanied in the passenger seat by a company employee, in case there are problems.
The data processing equipment was apparently developed by Baidu in house — not surprising when you remember that the company made its name as the Chinese equivalent of Google. The vehicles themselves are retrofitted offerings provided by BYD, BAIC, and Chery.
Notably, the route that is currently host to the self-driving cars has already been, according to the company, “mapped with centimetre accuracy.” So, the testing is not truly in the “wilderness” so to speak, as of yet.
Tech Crunch provides more: “The cars switch lanes, negotiate intersections, pass slower cars and even make U-turns, achieving a max top speed of 60 km per hour (37 mph) in accordance with the local speed limit. … A display within the car shows passengers info, including traffic conditions and objects along the path.”
As it stands, Baidu is reportedly aiming for first production of commercial self-driving vehicles to begin in 2018, with a broader rollout targeted for 2021, presumably after most kinks have been worked out.
Notably, Baidu recently began public self-driving vehicle testing in California as well, after receiving a permit from the California DMV.
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