Robin Li: Baidu’s Self-Driving Car Enters Mass Production in 2018 Despite Fines

Baidu CEO Robin Li spoke at the company’s annual conference on November 16 in Beijing, introducing its latest artificial intelligence technology for mobile phones, cars and the family.

After the developer’s meeting, Li mentioned that Baidu‘s self-driving car received a fine. “If the cars run well enough to be fined, how far are they from mass production? King Long, JAC Automobile, BAIC and Chery will all be producing self-driving cars in 2018 and 2019,” he said.

According to data from Baidu, more than 6,000 developers voted for its Apollo platform, and more than 1,700 partners have applied for its open data.

In addition, Baidu is cooperating with Xiong ‘an, Baoding, Wuhu, Chongqing, Beijing Yizhuang Development Zone and SAIC City to develop smart travel cities.

Li also showed off Baidu‘s voice interaction and Apollo’s fatigued driving monitoring system. Li said although these were exciting developments, they were only just the beginning. “With the advent of the AI era, we are close to having machines that do what they are told to. Baidu wants artificial intelligence to be simpler, because Baidu has a better understanding of its users,” he said.

The full text of Li’s speech follows:

This year is not like previous years. A lot has changed since the Baidu Developer Conference four months ago. At the Baidu Developer Conference in July, what impressed you the most? Most people just want to ask, ‘Did your car get a fine?’ I have to respond to that. Our self-driving car was fined, but I say, if our self-driving car is good enough to get a fine, how far is it from mass production?

Since we opened our platform Apollo, we’ve seen more than 6,000 developers express an interest and more than 1,700 partners apply for the open data. Apollo has become a lively open platform that benefits many.

When people spot me out shopping, they stop and ask when they will be able to sit in one of Baidu‘s self-driving cars. Everyone expects self-driving cars will enter mass production in 2020, but we wanted to beat that. In our short cooperation King Long, we’ve been able to ensure mass production of self-driving minibus vehicles will begin in 2018. These buses will run on closed paths next year. In addition to King Long, our new partners JAC, BAIC and Chery will all produce self-driving cars in 2019.

If you go to the Olympic Forest Park, you can see sweeping cars run and supported by Apollo. The self-driving car industry will develop rapidly. Artificial intelligence is not only bringing great changes to cars but to all aspects of human life. We will work with Xiong’an to build the world’s leading intelligent travel city. We’ve also reached agreements with Baoding, Wuhu, Chongqing, Beijing Yizhuang Development Zone and SAIC City to build smart travel cities.

Behind these developments is Baidu Brain, which Baidu World introduced last year. Baidu Brain has four capabilities, namely voice, image, natural language processing and customer persona profile. We’ve added some 80 core abilities to the AI, joined by more than 370,000 partners. Baidu Brain is used by 218.8 billion times every day.

Its accuracy rate in voice recognition, translation and speech recognition is 95 percent. For English translation, taking CET-6 as an example, it scores 13.6 points out of 15 points, outperforming most college students. It also shows that Baidu Brain’s technical ability is rapidly improving.

Artificial intelligence can be used in cars and by the family, with such applications as TV. We often say that most people don’t know how to use the remote control, but when combined with artificial intelligence, Baidu TV will understand what people say. It has voice recognition and video comprehension, allowing control that is not possible with a remote.

Many current smart speakers need to be awoken by four words. This is not natural, and we need to find a better way to interact with machines.

At the end of this month, we will release an audio version of Baidu mobile, which will be able to carry on natural language dialogue. This is convenience is possible thanks to AI. The devices have other applications, especially image recognition. We have a project called Everyone Back Home Safely – Baidu Apollo’s driver fatigue monitoring system.

The monitoring system uses face recognition and fatigue monitoring, reminding drivers to concentrate on driving and paying attention to safety. When driver started to doze off, the system will remind them and recommend cheerful songs to help stay awake. In places with dazzling sunlight, the system can spot fatigue even if the driver is using sunglasses. When it thinks driver is severely fatigued, the system will automatically navigate to a rest area. In the future, we hope the system will not only navigate, but also drive to the rest area automatically.

When I show these plans, everyone feels excited. But in my opinion, this is only the beginning: we have much to see in the future. I remember when the first Baidu World Conference was held in 2006. Twelve years later, equal access to information is no longer a dream. The world becomes more complex as technology evolves. The evolution of human society is the tool of invention. Whenever a new tool is invented, we need to learn it. Tools are more and more complex and plentiful, which is not so satisfying.

But with the advent of the era of AI, we believe you can use technology to make a change. We can have the machines listen to our words and relieve our burdens. Twelve years ago, Baidu helped Chinese people discover it was not that complex to obtain information. With the advent of artificial intelligence, Baidu hopes to make it even easier to access, because Baidu understands you today better than it ever has.

This article originally appeared in Jiemian and was translated by Pandaily.