The Chinese internet giant said on Wednesday that the new project named Apollo, will provide the tools carmakers would need to make autonomous vehicles. There would be reference designs and a complete software solution that includes cloud data services.
Essentially, Baidu is trying to become to cars what Google's Android has become to smartphones – an operating system that will power a number of driverless vehicles.
Baidu will open its autonomous driving technology for restricted environment driving in July and then share it for driverless cars running in simple urban road conditions towards the end of the year. By 2020, the company said that the technology will have the capabilities to allow cars to autonomously drive on highways and open city roads.
The technology giant has been investing heavily in this area since 2015 and that same year tested fully autonomous cars on highways and roads in Beijing. But the company has also expanded to the U.S. where it received a driverless car test permit for California last year.
"An open, innovative industry ecosystem initiated by Baidu will accelerate the development of autonomous driving in the US and other developed automotive markets," Qi Lu, chief operating officer at Baidu, said in a press release.
Baidu's move pits it against the likes of Waymo, Alphabet's driverless car company, Tesla and even Uber which is developing its own autonomous vehicles. By offering a suite of tools for carmakers to develop vehicles more easily, Baidu could become widespread in the industry.