Today's Top News: CEO Arrested After Baidu Pulls Crazy Stunt to Show China's Still in the Driverless Race

CEO Arrested After Baidu Pulls Crazy Stunt to Show China's Still in the Driverless Race

China's Baidu, the Chinese equivalent of Google, live streamed a video yesterday of CEO Robin Li riding a self-drive vehicle along the streets and highways of Beijing.

Since it's illegal to even test driverless cars on public roads and streets in China, the stunt culminated in Li's arrest broadcast live. According to press reports, the video has gone "viral."

While obviously not a Chinese-controlled state media source, Reuters wrote China has been "catching up in the race to develop self-driving cars, helped by supportive regulation and Beijing's desire to shift to an economy driven by high-tech and consumer sectors rather than heavy industry and low-end manufacturing."

To whit, in addition to the live video feed of Baidu's CEO testing a driverless car and his subsequent arrest, Baidu made a series of driverless-related announcements during its artificial intelligence conference held this week.

Other "proof" that the Chinese firm is catching up to its US counterparts includes Baidu's announcement this week it has added 50 more "partners" in its development of driverless cars, including Microsoft, Robert Bosch, and Continental AG. Chinese and Western media sources have also long parroted Baidu's claims it will have self-drive vehicles on the road by 2018, but the firm has not been more specific about what that means (Baidu also did not respond to emails when queried about its driverless project by Driverless).

Baidu's development of neural networks. machine learning, mapping, and other essential components of driverless technology comes from its Apollo project, about which the company remains very secretive.

However, very little, if any, evidence exists that Baidu is catching up to its US counterparts, including Waymo, which has logged the most driverless miles of any firm to date and Tesla, which offers Level 2 self-driving features in cars you can buy, as well as Ford and General Motors (GM).

If anything, Baidu's driverless program has lost ground in the aftermath of at least two defections. They include Andrew Ng, adjunct professor of computer science at Stanford University, who left Baidu in March as chief scientist.

Yong Dian Jian, a staff computer vision scientist for Tesla since May after serving as a senior technical specialist for autonomous driving at Faraday Future from April 2016 until April 2017, left Baidu in March 2016.

Baidu has not confirmed who, if anyone, has replaced Ng or Jian.

Continental Bigs Up Driverless Shuttles with French Firm Purchase

Continental has bought a minority share in France-based EasyMile, which it describes as a "pioneer in driverless technology and smart mobility solutions." EasyMile's EZ10 autonomous shuttle has been deployed in more than 50 cities across 17 countries in Asia-Pacific, North America, the Middle East and Europe.

Renault Says Purchase of a Stake in JV Will Help Nissan Alliance's Driverless

Renault has agreed to buy a 35% stake in a new joint venture, Autonomous Vehicle Simulation (AVS), formed with Oktal, a subsidiary of Sogeclair, a French aerospace and simulation firm. The purchase will allow Renault and the Renault-Nissan Alliance to expand their menu of advanced technologies for autonomous vehicle testing in a virtual environment, Renault said.

Elsewhere in the News

Porsche mulls its survival in the driverless and mobility age. The kangaroo obsession just won't let up as a British politician discusses issues the marsupial has with Volvo-badged driverless cars.

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Cover photo via Yicai Global/YouTube

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