In the world of growing technology, China is one of the country enlisted in the top five Techno-freak countries, and today, Baidu, the “Chinese Google”, announced that its autonomous car has successfully navigated a complicated route through Beijing. The company claimed that the modified BMW 3-Series drove approximately 30 km route around the capital city, which included side streets as well as highways.
The car made left, right and U-turns and even changed the lanes, though these capabilities are nothing new in the field of this technology, as Google and the other major automakers working on the technology have no trouble there. But it’s a significant milestone for China, and proof that Baidu is up as a real contender in the race to develop and deliver the fully revolutionary technology first.
Basically, there are two ways of approach such technology: the automaker’s way is to pick a regular stock car and slowly add in features, Google is going for the “moonshot,” straight to a car no human will ever drive, a vehicle which is fully capable in every situation. But, Baidu says it’s taking a third way, “to advance incrementally through different environments, rather than through different levels of driving autonomy.”
The company is actually working on autonomous vehicles that will be limited to its route, like a bus that drives the same route every day, as limiting the routes actually reduces the limits of the challenges the vehicle has to face. This kind of service depends on a detailed mapping that include things like the precise location of lane markers and curbs, the height of traffic lights, and what every traffic sign says. The base of such idea is that, if the information is pre-loaded, the vehicle can focus its computing power and sensors on obstacles.
Like Google, Baidu is also making its own maps and says that “within five to ten years, the majority of China’s roadways could be mapped” to that level to detail.