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Beijing authorities investigating Baidu after CEO's autonomous car stunt

  • Beijing traffic authorities are investigating whether or not Baidu broke any laws after CEO Robin Li tested an autonomous car in city streets
  • Li rode in two different driverless cars in Beijing on his way to speak at a company event for developers on Wednesday
Robin Li, Co-Founder and CEO of Baidu, speaks at the Baidu AI Developer Conference on July 5, 2017 in Beijing, China.
Liu Guanguan | China News Service/ VCG | Getty Images
Robin Li, Co-Founder and CEO of Baidu, speaks at the Baidu AI Developer Conference on July 5, 2017 in Beijing, China.

Beijing traffic authorities are investigating whether Baidu broke any laws after CEO Robin Li tested an autonomous car in city streets.

Li rode in two different driverless cars in Beijing on his way to speak at a company event for developers on Wednesday. He live broadcast part of the trip from the passenger seat in a bold stunt to demonstrate Baidu's technology. That video was displayed on a huge screen at the conference, and Li chatted with COO Lu Qi and greeted the audience.

The clip drew plenty of attention and quickly went viral, but Beijing traffic cops appear to have been less than amused by the move, issuing a statement saying that they were opening an investigation into the matter. Authorities also said that while they "support innovation in self-driving cars, it must be done according to the law."

Baidu has invested heavily in artificial intelligence, and is working to take the lead in the global development of driverless cars. The company is aiming to get its tech-savvy vehicles out on the roads by around 2020. But as the industry race continues to develop autonomous cars, it's clear that laws and regulations may be a bit slower to catch up — a trend that has spanned the world as new innovations have popped up in the internet age.

On Wednesday, Baidu announced a partnership with more than 50 foreign and domestic companies to collaborate and develop its autonomous driving platform, Apollo. Firms involved include mapping specialist TomTom, tech firm Nvidia, chipmaker Intel, Ford, Daimler and a spate of Chinese car manufacturers including Chery Auto and Great Wall Motor.

A Baidu spokesperson said the company wouldn't comment on the investigation by Beijing traffic authorities.