Beijing-based internet giant, Baidu, has developed a new chip as well as a “robocar”. The driverless concept car was created to showcase the computing power of the semiconductor, according to a report from CNBC.
Unveiled at Baidu’s annual world conference in mid-August, the second-generation microchip, Kunlun 2, has recently gone into mass production, after three years of research and development.
In the past few years, Baidu has diversified its activity from being an internet search engine giant into other big tech industries, like satellite navigation and autonomous taxi driving services. Since then, the firm – recently valued at $2 billion after a March round of funding – has become a powerhouse in the industry, offering self-driving taxi services in Beijing since May this year.
The seven nanometer (nm) processor, which powers the artificial intelligence (AI) systems inside the car, replaces the Kunlun 1 chip, and reportedly has computing power three times stronger than its predecessor, according to Interesting Engineering.
Chip production in China has been rising steadily since Beijing announced plans to increase domestic semiconductor production.
Also unveiled at the conference was Robocar, a self-driving electric vehicle (EV) with gull-wing front doors and a massive internal monitor for passengers. Like Baidu vehicles going forward, Robocar was powered by the Kunlun 2 chip. Billed as a concept car, Baidu did not confirm whether Robocar would ever be on offer to the public.
Baidu’s self-driving taxi hailing app, Apollo Go, which has been used in cities like Beijing and Guangzhou, has undergone a rebranding. Now called Luobo Kuiapao, Baidu intends to expand its autonomous taxi driving service into more cities in the future.
Baidu’s vice president of intelligent driving told CNBC that the firm expects mass commercial take-up of its self-driving taxis in the next three years.
Expected to build those vehicles is BAIC, one of China’s most respected automobile companies. The state-owned manufacturer agreed to build 1 000 units for Baidu in June this year, with the goal of mass commercialisation in the future.
It is unclear how Baidu plans to price its service, but a May article by the online publication, MarketWatch, indicated the going price was $4.60 per ride, in its initial operations in Beijing.