Baidu updates its open-source autonomous driving platform

The ‘Google of China’ wants to be the ‘Google of China’ for cars too.

It's odd that the search engine company known as the "Google of China" says that its open-source autonomous driving platform Apollo is the "Android of the auto industry." But that's exactly what Baidu is trying to be with Apollo and it's racking up partners worldwide (including Ford, Daimler, NVIDIA and others) to make it a reality.

At an event in Sunnyvale, California, the search company unveiled Apollo 1.5, its latest version of its autonomous driving platform. The new version supports HD maps, LiDAR, obstacle detection and deep learning technologies. All of which, like the rest of the platform, is open source and modular so developers can pick and choose what they want to use in their own systems.

But it's not a completely open system. At some point a developer will have to contribute to the platform to access more of the data for their own needs. It seems like a fair trade. Why build up your entire stack on the backs of others without at being an active part of the community?

Baidu has big plans for Apollo. It expects it will be powerful enough for a Level 3 car on the road by 2019, and primed for Level 4 vehicle in 2021. It's an impressive feat for a company that's not even building cars... and also in line with Google's own autonomous car plans, its US counterpart.