Volvo and China’s largest internet search provider Baidu have teamed up to develop electric and fully autonomous drive-compatible cars for China.
Based on the collaboration agreement, Baidu will contribute with its Apollo autonomous driving platform, while Volvo will provide access to its expertise and advanced technologies of the car industry.
The Swedish carmaker, which is owned by Chinese auto manufacturer Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, will pool its resources with Baidu to take the next step and prepare for mass manufacturing of fully electric and autonomous cars.
China, the largest car market in the world, is also likely to become the single largest market for autonomous cars in the coming decades, as it is expected to sell around 14.5 million autonomous cars by 2040, on a total global volume of around 33 million, according to a market research firm IHS Markit prediction.
Launched in July 2017, Baidu’s Apollo autonomous driving open platform has brought together 131 global partners and is competing with Google’s Waymo and U.S. carmaker Tesla.
Baidu signed a number of deals to boost its autonomous driving technology, and it began with Chinese bus manufacturer Xiamen King Long to produce Apolong, China's first L4 autonomous mini-buses. Baidu also announced a deal with U.S. auto giant Ford to develop and test driverless vehicles for two years; moreover, BMW Group and Baidu joined forces to accelerate the development of autonomous driving in China.
The Chinese giant also is set to launch a fleet of autonomous driving taxis next year for pilot operations in Changsha; the fleet of over 100 vehicles will be China's first group of autonomous driving taxis.
“With Baidu we take a big step forward in commercializing our autonomous compatible cars, built on Volvo’s industry-leading safety technology,” said Håkan Samuelsson, President and Chief Executive of Volvo.
He added, “There is a strong development in the autonomous drive in China, where Baidu is a leading player, and the market there offers huge opportunities for us as the supplier of choice for autonomous fleets.”
Volvo expects to generate one-third of all annual sales from autonomous cars by the middle of the next decade. Its global sales reached a record 571,577 cars across 100 countries in 2017 and recorded 472,467 cars for the first nine months of 2018.
Meanwhile, Dr. Ya-Qin Zhang, President of Baidu said, “Since its founding a century ago, Volvo has kept safety as its core mission, pushing safety development forward with significant innovations. We are very glad that Volvo Cars has established a strategic partnership with Baidu in the development of a fully autonomous car compatible with our autonomous driving platform Apollo.”