Baidu Inc. has invested billions of yuan in its biggest ever project — a driverless vehicle, according to Wang Jin, Senior Vice-President of the company, in an interview.
"Automatic driving technology is more complicated than AlphaGo [the computer developed to play the board game Go]," Wang said. In Wang's eyes, the successful development of artificial intelligence relies on three things: calculating ability, big data and calculation methods. Currently, the company owns hundreds of thousand servers. The calculating ability of the super computer developed by the company is twice of that of Tianhe-1.
Taking advantage of artificial intelligence, Baidu’s driverless cars have already managed successful, fully automatic drives in a variety of road conditions, including urban roads, elevated roadways and expressways. The car will be tested in the U.S. at some point in the future, said Wu Enda, a chief scientist at Baidu.
Driverless cars are the most significant development so far for the company. A spokesperson has said that they hope to put the car into commercial use within three years, and to enter mass production within five years. However, whether the car will put into commercial use depends largely on cost. A car-based radar on the driverless car that finished testing last year cost 700,000 yuan.
Wang said the company is working with its partner, attempting to bring the cost of the radar down to less than 20,000 yuan within the next three to five years. So far, the cost has been lowered to under 500,000 yuan. Wang said that the cost of a driverless car will only be 20 to 33 percent of the cost of manned cars.
Wu claimed that there are currently many valuable projects related to artificial intelligence, but there are few people who are willing and able to properly conduct them.