Shares of Baidu, Inc. (BIDU - Free Report) saw a nice pop in early morning trading hours Wednesday, eventually gaining as much as 3.6%. The breakout comes on the same day that the Chinese internet giant announced it is open sourcing its self-driving car technology.
By opening up its driverless vehicle technology for automakers to use, Baidu hopes to be the default autonomous driving platform. Today’s move is a direct challenge to the other major players in the self-driving car market, including Alphabet (GOOGL - Free Report) and Tesla (TSLA - Free Report) .
Baidu has dubbed the new open-source project “Apollo,” and it will focus on utilizing the company’s strengths in artificial intelligence to build a collaborative driverless car ecosystem.
“AI has great potential to drive social development, and one of AI's biggest opportunities is intelligent vehicles,” said Baidu COO Qi Lu in a press release.
Today’s statement also included the announcement of a partnership alliance, wherein Baidu will work alongside other companies to provide the best hardware and promote participation in the project.
“This will lower the barriers to entry for research and development of autonomous driving technologies, making it more accessible to the general public, and accelerate the overall pace of innovation,” the company said.
The news comes just a few weeks after Baidu CEO Robin Li addressed the possibility of spinning off its self-driving car unit into its own separate company (also read: Is Baidu Poised to Gain from Driverless Car Unit Spin Off?).
“When we think business is promising enough and it has reached a stage that running it independently or introducing more strategic investors would make sense, we will do that,” Li said.
The company has been working on developing an artificial-intelligence platform that combines its own cloud platform with NVIDIA’s (NVDA - Free Report) self-driving technology to deliver things like HD maps, vehicle control, automated parking, and others for the Chinese market.
For some time, it looked like Baidu’s self-driving goals would be based on domination in China—perhaps to gain footing in the ride-sharing business currently dominated by Apple (AAPL - Free Report) backed Didi Chuxing—but today’s announcement implies that the internet behemoth has more global dreams.
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