Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn and Baidu Inc. in China today announced the commencement of a two-year joint autonomous vehicle test project under which the two companies will further advance the development and on-road testing of autonomous vehicles in China.
The Baidu-Ford L4 Autonomous Vehicle Test Project will begin on-road testing by the end of the year. As part of the effort, Ford and Baidu will develop and test autonomous vehicles that are designed to meet the Level 4 (L4) driving automation standard as defined by SAE International.
Upon completion of the development and testing process, the vehicles will be capable of operating autonomously within a specific geographic area and under certain weather conditions.
“Working with a leading tech partner like Baidu allows us to leverage new opportunities in China to offer innovative solutions that improve safety, convenience and the overall mobility experience,” says Sherif Marakby, president and CEO of Ford Autonomous Vehicles. “This project marks a new milestone in the partnership between Ford and Baidu, and supports Ford’s vision to design smart vehicles that transform how we get around.”
In the lead-up to the kickoff, a team of Ford engineers at the company’s Nanjing Research and Engineering Center (REC) was set up to convert the vehicles into Autonomous Vehicle Platforms (AVPs) in order to prepare them to be fit with Baidu’s Apollo Virtual Driver System (VDS).
All vehicles have now been equipped with the Virtual Driver System (VDS) and related hardware and are ready for testing. The AV tests will be conducted on open roads in Beijing that are specially designated for AV testing, with the option of exploring further opportunities in other Chinese cities in the future in accordance with local regulations.
“Baidu and Ford both believe in using technology to redefine the future of mobility,” says Zhenyu Li, vice president and general manager of Baidu’s Intelligent Driving Group. “This project will combine our leading-edge technological know-how and understanding of China together with Ford’s vehicle expertise, marking a significant step forward toward Baidu’s goal of developing autonomous driving vehicles that will greatly benefit future consumers.”
Ford is a founding member of the Apollo Committee, an advisory group for Baidu’s Apollo autonomous driving open platform, with Ford’s Marakby serving as a board member. The new project builds on the existing collaborative partnership between the two companies.
Ford and Baidu previously agreed on, and started to explore, new opportunities for cooperation in areas of connectivity, artificial intelligence, and digital marketing.