Baidu completes its computer for self-driving cars

It'll first be used for autonomous valet parking.

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FUZHOU, CHINA - MAY 06: A Baidu Apollo vehicle is on display at the Baidu stand during the 2nd Digital China Summit & Exhibition at Fuzhou Strait International Conference & Exhibition Center on May 6, 2019 in Fuzhou, Fujian Province of China. The 2nd Digital China Summit with the theme of 'IT application: new growth drivers for new developments and achievements' is held on May 6-8 in Fuzhou. (Photo by Visual China Group via Getty Images/Visual China Group via Getty Images)
VCG via Getty Images

Baidu is on the cusp of making self-driving cars more practical. The Chinese tech giant has revealed that its Apollo Computing Unit, billed as the “world’s first production-ready” autonomous driving computer, is ready for use on the streets. It’s an unassuming box (see below), but it can handle massive amounts of data from five cameras and 12 ultrasonic radars.

It’s based on Xilinx processors and boasts microcontrollers from chip maker Infineon.

You’ll see the ACU in use quickly. It will power Apollo Valet Parking, a team-up with WM Motor that will automatically pick you up and otherwise streamline valet service without requiring drivers. It’s due to launch in the second half of 2020 and could be helpful during a pandemic, when you probably don’t want other people touching your car.

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The firm isn’t the only one working on self-driving computers. NVIDIA is quickly landing deals with GM, Toyota and others that could make it a powerhouse, for instance. However, Baidu might be the first to put a platform into real-world (albeit limited) use. That, in turn, could spur competition and increase the chances you’ll experience driverless cars first-hand.

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