The race for autonomous vehicles keeps getting better and better with many of the world’s top auto makers and tech titans vying for the maximum market share in the emerging automobile market segment. Baidu, the Chinese technology giant rolled out its 100th autonomous mini bus, called Apolong. The buses were conceived as part of Baidu’s ambitious Apollo project, which is arguably the world’s leading autonomous vehicles and artificial intelligence initiative.
The buses, which seat up to 14 people, were manufactured by King Long, at its manufacturing facility in Xiamen. The milestone was live streamed to over 6000 attendees at the Baidu Create 2018 by chairman and CEO Robin Li. All of the mini buses are outfitted with Baidu’s Apollo autonomous driving system, which is reportedly capable of level 4 operations. A level 4 designation means that the vehicles can take over all the driving under certain conditions.
Baidu has announced plans to launch the autonomous bus service in several Chinese cities including Shenzhen and Beijing. The buses will initially be available in tourism hotspots, airports, and other controlled areas. Additionally, Baidu also plans to expand its services to Japan next year by partnering with SB drive, a subsidiary of the Softbank Group.
“2018 marks the first year of commercialization for autonomous driving. From the volume production of Apolong, we can truly see that autonomous driving is making great strides, taking the industry from zero to one,” Robin Li said.