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China's Search Giant Baidu Plans To Build a Robocar

Yet another tech company has jumped on the self-driving bandwagon

1 min read
China's Search Giant Baidu Plans To Build a Robocar
Photo: Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images

Baidu, the Chinese search giant, is working on a self-driving car and may roll it out as early as this year, says chief executive Robin Li.

He spoke before attending a government conference in Beijing, according to Bloomberg. Just last week, the minister of technology had publicly encouraged Chinese companies outside the auto industry to work with it to spur innovation.

Another huge tech company thus joins the robocar bandwagon, the one Google started in 2010. Auto companies jumped on soon afterwards; just last year Mercedes fielded the first production car that could take over most highway driving. Now it’s the tech companies’s turn to climb aboard.

The past month saw a spate of rumors that Apple was developing an autonomous electric car, or at least working on the finely detailed mapping services such a car would need. In any case, the company has been on a hiring binge, snapping up engineers with experience in automotive batteries and guidance systems.

Baidu is no stranger to mapping, having already offered it as part of its suite of search services. Back in September it said it was collaborating with BMW on maps suitable for self-driving cars. 

How much of this is real and how much is for show? Who knows. Robotic cars are the newest big thing, and governments and companies alike are rushing to get in front of the convoy and thus appear to be leading it.

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We Need More Than Just Electric Vehicles

To decarbonize road transport we need to complement EVs with bikes, rail, city planning, and alternative energy

11 min read
A worker works on the frame of a car on an assembly line.

China has more EVs than any other country—but it also gets most of its electricity from coal.

VCG/Getty Images
Green

EVs have finally come of age. The total cost of purchasing and driving one—the cost of ownership—has fallen nearly to parity with a typical gasoline-fueled car. Scientists and engineers have extended the range of EVs by cramming ever more energy into their batteries, and vehicle-charging networks have expanded in many countries. In the United States, for example, there are more than 49,000 public charging stations, and it is now possible to drive an EV from New York to California using public charging networks.

With all this, consumers and policymakers alike are hopeful that society will soon greatly reduce its carbon emissions by replacing today’s cars with electric vehicles. Indeed, adopting electric vehicles will go a long way in helping to improve environmental outcomes. But EVs come with important weaknesses, and so people shouldn’t count on them alone to do the job, even for the transportation sector.

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