12/15/2015 | 1 MINUTE READ

China’s Baidu Targets Self-Driving Cars

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Chinese tech giant Baidu Inc. has begun testing a fully autonomous car on public roads in Beijing and aims to launch sales of such vehicles within about five years.

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Chinese tech giant Baidu Inc. has begun testing a fully autonomous car on public roads in Beijing and aims to launch sales of such vehicles within about five years. The company, which is the top online search firm in China, also is developing a self-driving bus it plans to introduce within the same timeframe, a company official tells Reuters.

The prototype test car is a modified BMW 3 Series GT outfitted with a host of cameras, lasers, sensors and advanced mapping technology that pinpoints the vehicle's location within a lane. Baidu says the vehicle can detect other vehicles, pedestrians and various road obstacles.

During the initial 19-mile test run in Beijing, the vehicle drove on a variety of roads, executed turns including u-turns and passing maneuvers, changed lanes and merged with highway traffic, reaching a top speed of 62 mph.

Baidu established a separate business unit for its automotive-related products earlier this year. The company, which is working with BMW, notes that self-driving cars are even more challenging in China due to the country's "mixed road conditions" and "unpredictable driver behavior."

Baidu expects the bulk of China's roads to be charted with the company's highly automated driving mapping technology within five to 10 years to help facilitate autonomous driving. The company also plans to work with government agencies on car-sharing initiatives for self-driving vehicles.