Chinese internet giant Baidu announced plans on November 29 to build the world’s largest autonomous ride-hailing service area next year. The message came during a celebration of Apollo Day, the firm’s autonomous driving tech event.
Since August, Baidu has rolled out fully driverless ride-hailing services with no human drivers in the cities of Chongqing and Wuhan, with access to hundreds of square kilometers in operation area. Baidu will continue to expand these zones next year in its bid to build the world’s largest service area for fully driverless robotaxi services.
Currently, Baidu‘s autonomous ride-hailing platform Apollo Go covers more than 10 cities in China including all first-tier cities. In Q3 2022 alone, Apollo Go completed more than 474,000 rides, up 311% year-on-year, and a 65% increase compared to last quarter. In first-tier cities like Beijing and Shanghai, each robotaxi on Apollo Go can provide 15 rides a day on average, nearly the same daily ride average of typical online ride-hailing car services. By the end of Q3 2022, the accumulated rides provided to the public by Apollo Go had reached 1.4 million.
Additionally, Baidu revealed a series of new technology breakthroughs including an “AI big model” built for autonomous driving perception, high-definition autonomous driving maps, a closed-loop autonomous driving data system, and the successful end-to-end adaptation of AI chips for autonomous vehicles.
Industry’s First AI Big Model for Autonomous Driving
The AV industry has long grappled with a “long tail” problem, in which an autonomous vehicle runs into a scenario it has not seen or experienced before. To address this problem, Baidu has announced the industry’s first AI big model for autonomous driving, a pre-trained visual-language model with weak supervision, backed by the Baidu WenXin Big Model, which recognizes thousands of objects, helping to enlarge the scope of semantic recognition. The model will enable autonomous vehicles to quickly make sense of unseen objects such as special vehicles (fire trucks, ambulances, etc.), plastic bag misdetection, and other functions.
High-Definition Autonomous Driving Map
Baidu‘s new-generation autonomous driving map is equipped with comprehensive capabilities such as automatic production, real-time fusion, and knowledge enhancement. The automation rate of the firm’s high precision map production has now reached 96%. The integration of vehicle-side perception data and multi-source maps to generate online maps in real time has helped to significantly ensure the safety of autonomous driving.
With more than 12 million kilometers of road networks and data accumulated on Baidu Maps, along with hundreds of millions of human drive-hours, Baidu‘s autonomous driving map effectively integrates these data points to improve the reliability of autonomous driving.
Closed-Loop Data System
Baidu introduced the concept of “Fine Purification, Strong Ingestion” and Apollo Loop, a closed-loop data system, to effectively identify and utilize data. To purify the data, the system leverages both on-board small AI models and a cloud-based big AI model to achieve high-efficiency data mining and automated labeling. The data ingestion architecture achieves automated training with its group-optimization ability and data distribution understanding to effectively utilize data and further enhance the overall intelligence of autonomous driving.
A Mutually Reinforcing Parallel Use Model for L4 and L2+ Autonomous Driving
Currently, Baidu‘s technology stack level enables the unification of L4 and L2+ smart driving products in terms of the visual perception scheme, technical architecture, map unification, data interconnection and infrastructure sharing. Baidu envisions a mutually beneficial relationship in which L4 will continue to provide advanced technology migration for L2+ smart driving products in urban use cases, while L2 data feedback will also help to improve L4 generalization ability.
Baidu‘s Kunlun AI Chip
The firm’s second-generation Kunlun AI chip has completed an end-to-end performance adaptation for autonomous driving. This marks a major milestone, further solidifying and integrating Baidu’s advantages in both autonomous driving software and hardware.