Baidu, the Chinese Internet giant (improper, very improper to call it a "Chinese Google") has dropped its cards.
In one fell swoop, Baidu unveiled its second-generation artificial intelligence chip, its first robocar and driverless taxi app, highlighting how these new technology areas will be critical to the company's future growth.
AI and hyper-intelligent mobility, the future of the world for Baidu
The Beijing-based company, known as China's largest search engine operator, has focused on diversifying its business. And from the advertising market (also in difficulty due to growing competition) it has moved on to a range of respectable possibilities.
Robin Li, CEO of Baidu, tried to convince investors that the company's future lies in artificial intelligence and related areas such as autonomous driving.
On Wednesday, during its annual Baidu World conference, the company launched Kunlun 2, its second generation AI chip. The semiconductor is designed to help devices process huge amounts of data and increase computing power. Baidu says the chip can be used in areas such as autonomous driving, and that the chip has already entered the mass production stage.
Baidu's first-generation Kunlun chip was launched in 2018. Earlier this year, Baidu raised funds for its chip unit reaching a monstrous figure of over € 2 billion.
Baidu has also unveiled a "robocar", an autonomous vehicle with doors that open like wings and a large screen inside for entertainment. It is not equipped with pedals or steering, which says it all about the Chinese company's vision.
The concept car highlights Baidu's ambitions in autonomous driving, which analysts say could be a multi-billion dollar business for the Chinese tech giant.
The robocar unveiling comes after a robotaxi service is activated in some cities, including Guangzhou and Beijing, where users can hail an autonomous taxi via the company's Apollo Go app in a limited area.
On Wednesday, Baidu renamed that app: it is now called “Luobo Kuaipao” and the launch of the large-scale robotaxi service will follow.
In June, Baidu has in fact announced a partnership with the state-owned carmaker BAIC Group to build 1.000 driverless cars in the next three years market a robotaxi service throughout China.
Baidu also announced four new hardware components, including a smart screen and a TV equipped with Xiaodu, the company's AI voice assistant. Things that in the overall picture of the presentation, however interesting, appear as details.
In short, an exponential growth. We will see if in the next few years Baidu will set foot in the West by “crossing the gloves” with technological giants such as Apple, Google, Amazon and Facebook.