Baidu Denies Planning Apollo Spin-off
Baidu Inc. (Nasdaq: BIDU) denied its plans to spin-off its self-driving car project Tuesday, sending its shares up nearly 3 percent to $120.49 apiece.
China's top search engine said in a statement today that rumors about the spin-off of its driverless vehicle development business, circulated in various media were untrue after a report by Caijing, a Chinese business news website, was picked up by U.S. media like Technode.
The company has previously considered to spin off its Apollo project upon its maturity to attract funding partners, according to a 2017 Bloomberg interview with Robin Li, Baidu's chief executive officer.
However, now Baidu says its Apollo project plays a key role in its AI development, and it is currently evolving steadily in accordance with its strategy.
"We are pleased to see that Apollo autopilot technologies have been adopted in many innovative scenarios, including street cleaning, goods delivery and shuttle services," Li said in the conference call last Friday.
The Beijing Transportation Commission recognized Apollo as a leader in autonomous driving in a March 2018 Beijing Autonomous Driving Vehicles Road Test Report. Baidu said the report was different from self-reported miles used by other autonomous driving reports in field of safety and quality control of autonomous driving.
"DuerOS for Apollo has received a very positive initial customer feedback, particularly for facial recognition capabilities, to activate personalized settings, online payment and AR navigation," Li said about the smart voice assistant used in its vehicles.
Apollo was founded in April 2017 and provided an open software platform for its partners to develop autonomous driving systems through on-vehicle and hardware platforms. Volume production is expected to be conducted in July with geo-fence autonomous driving, a virtual perimeter for a real-world geographic area, and it can be applied on urban roads in 2020, according to the company.
Among Apollo's partners are Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), NIO Inc. (NYSE: NIO), Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F), and Honda Motor Co. Ltd. (NYSE: HMC).
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