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Safety a key concern for self-driving cars

By Fan Feifei | China Daily Europe | Updated: 2017-11-26 17:10

Self-driving vehicles still have a long way to go before they can reach the mass production stage or be used commercially on a large scale due to safety concerns, although such cars have become the development trend, experts say.

They believe that self-driving vehicles will be ready for commercial use by around 2020. Chinese internet search giant Baidu Inc is expected to achieve the goal ahead of schedule.

Baidu, which is pushing artificial intelligence to fuel growth, with a special emphasis on self-driving vehicles, is confident that such vehicles can hit the road next year, according to Baidu Chairman and CEO Robin Li.

It aims to put autonomous minibuses that can operate in designated areas into mass production and trial operation by the end of July 2018, in cooperation with Chinese bus manufacturer Xiamen King Long United Automotive Industry Co.

It also plans to launch self-driving car models in 2019 in cooperation with manufacturers JAC Motors and BAIC, as well as Chery Automobile Co, Li says, adding that these vehicles will be able to reduce traffic jams endemic to Chinese cities.

Zeng Zhiling, managing director of LMC Automotive Consulting Co, says, "Baidu's efforts are significant to the automotive industry, but more tests are needed before such vehicles can reach mass production and large-scale commercial application, given safety concerns."

Zeng warns that "self-driving vehicles are vulnerable to cyberattacks." He says that, since these vehicles are highly intelligent and networked, hackers might invade the system, thereby posing dangers to road safety.

Self-driving has become a trend in the automotive industry, but safety is the top priority, says Xu Yanhua, deputy secretary-general of the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers, who notes that US tech heavyweight Google Inc is still at the testing stage of its own self-driving vehicles.

Baidu has invested heavily in the research and development of autonomous driving technology. In April, it launched Apollo, an open platform on which its technologies can be shared with developers and automakers.

The platform signals a move to compete with Waymo, a self-driving car development company spun off from Google's parent company, Alphabet Inc.

The company has been operating its autonomous minivans on public roads in the US state of Arizona, without a safety driver, since mid-October. Several accidents involving Waymo self-driving vehicles have been reported.

Baidu launches smart speaker Raven

Baidu has unveiled a smart speaker, Raven H, that takes advantage of the company's advances in voice recognition and artificial intelligence.

The speaker, unveiled during the company's annual technology conference in Beijing, is the first AI hardware product produced by Baidu and will be available for purchase next month, priced at 1,699 yuan ($256; 218 euros; 193).

Raven R, a six-axis robot with emotional intelligence, was also released. It has six humanlike "joints" that allow it to move flexibly following a user's command and to express emotions to enhance the interactive experience.

 Safety a key concern for self-driving cars

Visitors take a look at a Baidu self-driving vehicle during a tech expo in Beijing. Sheng Jiapeng / China News Service

(China Daily European Weekly 11/24/2017 page29)

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