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Baidu to develop AI-driven 'smart city' outside Beijing

New economic zone at Xiongan will become tech testing ground

Baidu's headquarters in Beijing. (Photo by Mariko Tai)

BEIJING -- Chinese search engine operator Baidu plans to develop AI-driven transportation technology with government support in a new economic zone outside the capital.

Baidu has signed an agreement with the government of Hebei Province to turn Xiongan New Area into a model city for new urban transport systems, featuring "smart" public transit and autonomous-driving technology. It plans to set up an artificial-intelligence laboratory there as well. Baidu conducted a test of self-driving vehicles Wednesday in Xiongan.

A fleet of vehicles powered by Apollo -- Baidu's open platform that supports all major features and functions of autonomous vehicles -- on display in Xiongan on Dec. 20. (Courtesy of Baidu Online Network Technology (Beijing))

The development of Xiongan New Area, which sits about 100km southwest of Beijing and around 100km west of Tianjin, is being pushed by the government led by President Xi Jinping. The aim is to build a new, environmentally conscious city from the ground up and relieve overcrowding in the capital. The 100-sq.-km zone will eventually be expanded to 2,000 sq. km and house an estimated 2 million to 2.5 million people.

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