Robin Li (R), CEO of Baidu, sits at the company’s annual Baidu World conference on Wednesday, Jan.
GUANGZHOU, China – Chinese internet giant Baidu has unveiled its second generation artificial intelligence chip, its first “Robocar” and a renamed driverless taxi app, underscoring the importance of these new areas of technology to the company’s future growth.
The Beijing-headquartered company, known as China’s largest search engine provider, has focused in recent years on diversifying its business beyond advertising in the face of increasing competition and a difficult advertising market.
Robin Li, CEO of Baidu, has tried to convince investors that the company’s future lies in AI and related areas like autonomous driving.
On Wednesday, the company unveiled Kunlun 2, its second generation AI chip, at its annual Baidu World conference. The semiconductor is supposed to help devices process huge amounts of data and increase computing power. Baidu says the chip can be used in areas like autonomous driving and has entered mass production.
Baidu’s first generation Kunlun chip was launched in 2018. Earlier this year, Baidu raised funds for its $ 2 billion chip unit.
Baidu also took the covers of a “robocar,” an autonomous vehicle with doors that open like wings and a large screen inside for entertainment. It’s a prototype and the company didn’t say a word about whether it would go into mass production.
But the concept car underscores Baidu’s ambitions in autonomous driving, which analysts predict could be a billion dollar deal for the Chinese tech giant.
Baidu also operates so-called Robotaxi services in some cities such as Guangzhou and Beijing, where users can call an autonomous taxi in a limited area using the company’s Apollo Go app. On Wednesday, Baidu renamed this app “Luobo Kuaipao” because it is supposed to introduce robot axes on a large scale.
Wei Dong, vice president of Baidu’s intelligent driving group, told CNBC that the company is aiming for mass public commercial availability in some cities within two years.
It is unclear how Baidu will price the robotaxi service.
In June, Baidu announced a partnership with state automaker BAIC Group to build 1,000 self-driving cars over the next three years and eventually commercialize a robot taxi service across China.
Baidu also announced four new pieces of hardware, including a smart screen and a television equipped with Xiaodu, the company’s AI voice assistant. Xiaodu is another growth initiative of the company.