Intelligent Machines

Ride-Along in One of China’s First Self-Driving Cars

Baidu’s automated car will eventually face some pretty difficult road conditions.

Dec 15, 2015

China’s leading Internet search company, Baidu, revealed last week that it is working on a self-driving car. In the clip below, you can see what it’s like to zip around one of the roads that ring Beijing in the vehicle.

The car doesn’t encounter any particularly challenging road conditions—nothing like the chaos of rush-hour traffic, certainly—and it isn’t traveling all that quickly, either. That makes sense, since the project is still at a pretty early stage, although researchers at the company’s Institute of Deep Learning are busy trying to develop the machine-learning algorithms that will give the car more advanced abilities to interpret what its sensors see on the road ahead.

Interestingly, Baidu is pursuing a slightly different approach than other companies exploring automated driving. The plan—at least for now—is to develop technology for stretches of road, rather than for everywhere. This makes the challenge more manageable, but should still be useful for the millions of commuters in China’s cities.