Baidu, the operator of China’s largest online search engine, has completed the country’s first autonomous driving road test based on a 5G network environment, seen as a major step for the internet giant in its push towards driverless car technology.
According to a report from the official Xinhua news agency on Wednesday, the test was recently completed in Xiongan, a new development zone created last year under direct orders from Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The successful completion of the test, done with the cooperation of ZTE and China Telecom, is expected to kick off 5G’s application in autonomous driving as a high-speed, reliable network is essential for driverless cars to be deemed safe in sometimes chaotic, unpredictable real world conditions.
The Beijing-based Baidu has been tasked by the Chinese government to lead the country’s development in driverless car technology, as China is bolsters its position in the global race for autonomous vehicles.
The company, which recently was granted a license to carry out autonomous driving road tests in Beijing, is a partner of the Xiongan local government in developing smart transport and autonomous driving.
Xiongan, which encompasses three counties in Beijing’s neighbouring Hebei province, is expected to develop into a hi-tech hub and showcase some of China’s latest innovations as outlined in Xi’s technology blueprint.
The New York-listed Baidu, which is betting its future growth on AI technologies such as autonomous driving and voice recognition, is pushing ahead with its driverless car strategy despite a fatal accident in the US earlier this month that has cast a shadow over the entire industry.
The accident involved a self-driving Uber Technologies car that killed a 49-year-old woman in Tempe, Arizona.
Despite the setback, Baidu chief executive Robin Li Yanhong defended autonomous driving on Monday, saying it was much safer and caused fewer traffic accidents than human drivers.
He said the Uber accident will not impact Baidu’s autonomous driving development plans.