Baidu; SB Drive, a subsidiary of Softbank dedicated to self-driving technology research; and King Long, a leading commercial vehicle manufacturer in China, announced a strategic partnership jointly to develop and to deploy a version of the Apolong self-driving minibus for the Japanese market. Under the agreement, ten Apolong minibuses will be exported to Japan from China in early 2019. This agreement marks the first time autonomous vehicles will be exported from China.
Apolong is a fully autonomous minibus co-developed by Baidu and King Long. The minibus is powered by the Apollo open source autonomous driving technologies created by Baidu (earlier post) and is China’s first fully self-driving electric bus to enter the volume production phase.
King Long Apolong.
At Baidu Create, Baidu’s annual AI developer conference held on 4 July in Beijing, more than 6,000 attendees witnessed a live stream of the 100th Apolong bus leaving the assembly line.
Baidu’s Global Business Unit is focused on working with local partners to deploy Baidu’s AI technologies and products overseas, especially key projects such as the Apollo open autonomous driving technology and the DuerOS conversational AI platform.
The Apollo open autonomous driving platform was launched last year and is one of the world’s largest and most diverse autonomous driving ecosystem. Since its launch, the platform has garnered 116 global partners from automotive and technology industries, including Ford, Bosch, Velodyne, Intel, NVIDIA, and Microsoft.
As a member of Apollo, King Long began working with Baidu in October 2017 to develop the Apolong buses. The first fleet will be deployed in geo-fenced places such as parks, industrial campuses and airports in five Chinese cities.
In the same year, SB Drive conducted autonomous bus testing in Okinawa as part of the “Autonomous Driving System” program designated by the Cabinet Office of Japan. This made them an ideal partner for this project.
Aside from the latest success with the buses, Baidu’s Global Business Unit has successfully commercialized various AI products overseas. In Japan, Baidu’s AI powered voice keyboard, Simeji, has become Japan’s largest Japanese Kaomoji and Emoji content provider. The high-quality native ad recommendation platform, PopIn, has also covered most mainstream media in Japan, South Korea, Singapore and other countries.