ArrowArtboardCreated with Sketch.Title ChevronCrossEye IconIcon FacebookIcon LinkedinShapeCreated with Sketch.Icon Mail ContactPath LayerIcon MailMenu BurgerPositive ArrowIcon PrintIcon SearchSite TitleTitle ChevronIcon Twitter
Business Trends

Baidu enters Japan's self-driving bus market with SoftBank

Partners seek to start vehicle testing by year-end

A version of Baidu’s Apolong self-driving bus carried members of the public on trial rides during an exhibition in Fuzhou, China in April.   © Getty Images

BEIJING -- Chinese internet search leader Baidu is tying up with SB Drive, a subsidiary of SoftBank Group, to enter Japan's autonomous vehicle market.

Both have been investing in autonomous driving and aim to marry their systems in a bus model that would go into testing by year-end. China's Xiamen King Long United Automotive Industry will build the bus, currently called Apolong. The companies aim to ship 10 buses to Japan by 2019 and to begin commercialization later.

The Chinese government has established artificial intelligence as a key priority under its Made in China 2025 industrial program. Baidu is seen as one of the country's leading players in AI, the core technology for autonomous driving.

Baidu and SB Drive will start test drives in a closed area initially, but hope to begin tests on public roads soon after. In China, Baidu is testing self-driving vehicles in the Xiongan New Area, a new city being developed at the direction of President Xi Jinping to relieve population pressures in Beijing.

Baidu's Apollo project to develop a platform for autonomous vehicles includes Ford, Honda Motor and approximately other 100 global companies as partners. Its alliance with SB Drive will involve use of the Japanese company's operations management system among other technologies.

SB Drive has already been testing self-driving buses, using French-made electric models as a platform, at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, and is testing buses using other model platforms at Tokyo's Haneda Airport. The company aims to put the buses into regular use at Haneda in 2020.

You have {{numberReadArticles}} FREE ARTICLE{{numberReadArticles-plural}} left this month

Subscribe to get unlimited access to all articles.

Get unlimited access
NAR site on phone, device, tablet

{{sentenceStarter}} {{numberReadArticles}} free article{{numberReadArticles-plural}} this month

Stay ahead with our exclusives on Asia; the most dynamic market in the world.

Benefit from in-depth journalism from trusted experts within Asia itself.

Try 3 months for $9

Offer ends September 30th

Your trial period has expired

You need a subscription to...

See all offers and subscribe

Your full access to the Nikkei Asian Review has expired

You need a subscription to:

See all offers
NAR on print phone, device, and tablet media