Ford and Baidu announce two-year joint autonomous vehicle test project in China

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Ford Motor Company and Baidu Inc. have announced a two-year joint autonomous vehicle test project in which they’ll work together to further advance the development and on-road testing of autonomous vehicles in China.

According to Ford, the collaboration is aligned with its plans to “further advance and promote autonomous vehicle technologies,” which ultimately supports the company’s vision of designing “smart vehicles for a smart world.”

“Working with a leading tech partner like Baidu allows us to leverage new opportunities in China to offer innovative solutions that improve safety, convenience and the overall mobility experience,” says Sherif Marakby, president and CEO of Ford Autonomous Vehicles LLC.

“This project marks a new milestone in the partnership between Ford and Baidu, and supports Ford’s vision to design smart vehicles that transform how we get around.”

On-road testing for the two-year initiative—known as the Baidu-Ford L4 Autonomous Vehicle Test Project—is expected to start by the end of this year. Under the project, Ford and Baidu will work together to develop and test autonomous vehicles that are designed to meet the Level 4 (L4) driving automation standard as defined by SAE International.

Once the development and testing process is complete, the vehicles will be capable of operating autonomously within a specific geographic area and under certain weather conditions.

According to Ford, leading up to the kickoff, a team of Ford engineers at the company’s Nanjing Research and Engineering Center (REC) was set up to convert the vehicles into Autonomous Vehicle Platforms (AVPs), so that they’d be prepared to be kitted with Baidu’s Apollo Virtual Driver System (VDS). Now, all the vehicles are equipped with the Virtual Driver System and related hardware and are ready for testing.

Testing of the autonomous vehicles will be conducted on open roads in Beijing that are specially designated for autonomous vehicle testing. There is also the option of exploring other opportunities in other Chinese cities in the future, in accordance with local regulations.

This project builds on an existing collaborative partnership between Ford and Baidu, as Ford is a founding member of the Apollo Committee, which is an advisory group for Baidu’s Apollo autonomous driving open platform. Ford’s Marakby serves as a board member.