Baidu to launch autonomous driving technology
Baidu said it would work with partners who would provide vehicles, sensors and other componentsBaidu

Baidu would launch the autonomous car technology for restricted environment in July and gradually introduce fully self-driving capabilities on highways and city roads by 2020, the Chinese search giant on Tuesday (18 April) said.

The project, named as Apollo, will provide "an open, complete and reliable software platform" for Baidu's partners in the automotive and autonomous driving industry to "develop their own autonomous driving systems with reference vehicles and hardware platform".

The company says it "aims to build a collaborative ecosystem, utilizing its strengths in artificial intelligence (AI) technology to work together with other companies to promote the development and popularization of autonomous driving technology".

The project will provide hardware and software service that includes a vehicle platform, hardware and software platform and cloud data services.

Baidu said it would work with partners who would provide vehicles, sensors and other components.

Qi Lu, group president and chief operating officer at Baidu in a statement said, "AI has great potential to drive social development, and one of AI's biggest opportunities is intelligent vehicles."

The firm says it has invested in the research and development of autonomous driving technology since 2015, when it conducted road tests for its autonomous cars on the roads of Beijing.

The company has been betting big artificial intelligence and in January it named former Microsoft executive Qi Lu as chief operating officer.

Baidu launched a $200m (£156m) fund in October to focus on AI. It had also announced a $3bn fund in September to target start-ups, Reuters reported.

It received the testing permission for California in September 2016 and conducted open trial operations of its autonomous car fleet in November at the World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, Zhejiang Province.