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Baidu sets up an autonomous driving unit in Silicon Valley

Baidu eyes driverless cars with a new U.S. research stronghold. (Photo: Baidu)

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The Chinese web services firm is building a 100-person driverless vehicle team.

Internet giant Baidu is forming a new team dedicated to researching and testing driverless cars in the U.S. According to its press release, the forthcoming Silicon Valley group of researchers will be part of Baidu's newly-created Autonomous Driving Unit (ADU) and will be referred to as ADU-US. Baidu plans to grow the team to over 100 researchers and engineers by the end of the year.

According to a report by Industry Leaders Magazine, the team itself will focus on testing, researching, and developing self-driving vehicles. It will include machine learning researchers as well as hardware and software engineers across a variety of technical domains – from robotics and computer vision to onboard computers and sensors. The web company is reported to have already shifted some of its staff to Sunnyvale, California, where the team will be located. As soon as ADU-US picks up work, it will closely co-operate with Baidu's existing Silicon Valley-based teams, including Baidu Research.

"Baidu is fully committed to making self-driving cars a reality," said Jing Wang, Senior Vice President of Baidu and General Manager of Baidu's Autonomous Driving Unit. "Autonomous vehicles will save lives and make transportation more efficient. Baidu's Silicon Valley car team will play a significant role in building the car of the future." The company is aiming to have its own driverless vehicles on the road by 2018. A number of time-honored car producers and young tech firms have already settled in the San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley to research autonomous driving: For example, fast-rising startup Zoox takes on established players with an autonomous cab.

Baidu is not the only Chinese company who is ramping up its driverless car efforts. Manufacturer Changan is also making a dent: According to a Digital Trends report, two autonomous Changan models made a 1,200 mile (1,931 kilometers) trip from the southwestern city of Chongqing to Beijing last week, marking the nation’s first long-distance driverless test.

Read the full Industry Leaders Magazine article here. Find the original Baidu press release article here.

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