BMW partners with Baidu to test self-driving cars in China
BMW revealed that it is teaming up with Chinese internet company Baidu to begin automated driving tests in China.
The research vehicles developed by BMW have already gone through trial rides reaching a total of thousands of kilometers along autobahns in Germany. The project that is testing the highly automated vehicles is now expanding to include the cities of Shanghai and Beijing in China, BMW said.
"BMW is embarking on a further research project which will pave the way for highly automated driving in China as well," BMW said in a statement.
"China's fast-expanding urban centres present the engineers with challenges such as multi-level highways," the company added.
The prototype vehicles that BMW developed for the project will first be used along urban highways in Shanghai and Beijing, which offer additional kinds of streets and environments for more testing of the self-driving cars such as the aforementioned multi-level highways that are not too common in BMW's mother country of Germany.
BMW required a partner for the testing due to the need of vehicles with semi-autonomous driving features for high-resolution maps. The maps help the vehicles to determine whether they are still safely on track to their destination, without having curbs or structures blocking their path or missing crucial turns.
The vehicles currently do not have enough memory to be able to store the high-resolution maps of a whole country, which is why BMW has to partner up with Baidu to assist the vehicles in downloading the maps as they move.
Other car companies that are testing their versions of self-driving vehicles in other locations are doing the same thing in teaming up with providers for telecommunications and internet services.
Baidu is the operator of the biggest search engine in China, along with being a provider of services for maps and cloud storage systems.
Since BMW first unveiled its prototype for a driverless car in January at the Consumer Electronics Show, the company has tested the vehicle in Germany and other countries in Europe.
The car, which is based off the design of a BMW 2 Series Coupe, has been able to properly navigate across toll station and tunnels in Europe.
BMW has a lot of competition in developing a self-driving car, with Google as the most notable non-car manufacturing company to be involved in such a project.
While Google's self-driving car ideally only requires the user to set the destination and press the vehicle's start button to get to a location, BMW's version of the car uses technology as an "electronic co-pilot" that allows the car to handle repetitive and monotonous tasks. Drivers can assume full control of the vehicle at any time.