I'm fascinated by autonomous vehicles and do my best to keep an eye on what's happening worldwide. This morning I was told by Baidu USA that the state of California's Department of Motor Vehicles has given Baidu permission to test autonomous vehicles on their roads. Jing Wang, General Manager of Baidu's Autonomous Driving Unit, made the announcement:
We will start testing our autonomous driving technologies on public roads very soon in California.
Baidu has already built a strong team in Silicon Valley to develop autonomous driving technologies, and being able to do road tests will greatly accelerate our progress.
Baidu USA (the US branch of the "Chinese Google") had already announced that they were developing autonomous vehicles. The big news is that they're making steady progress in the US and now have permission to test on Californian roads.
We have recruited top researchers and engineers to join our team, and look forward to recruiting more people to work on the mission of bringing autonomous cars to the masses in the near future.
I'm less interested in what this means for competitors in the US such as Google and far more interested in what it means for the car manufacturers that aren't keeping up. It looks like many of the big players will be companies known for AI or internet services (Baidu, Google, Uber etc) but companies like Ford are working hard to stay ahead.
What happens to the other manufacturers if they don't adapt quickly? If autonomous vehicles become the norm they could find themselves providing hardware for Baidu and others already in the self-driving game.
We're in for an exciting decade or two.