China’s search engine giant Baidu is in talks with automakers about the possibility of making its own electric vehicles, three people with knowledge of the matter said, according to a Reuters report.
Baidu has been in preliminary contact with several auto companies, including Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co Ltd, Guangzhou Automobile Group Co Ltd (GAC) and China FAW Group Corp Ltd’s Hongqi, to discuss a possible establishment of an electric vehicle joint venture, according to several media reports. Baidu declined to comment.
GAC told Reuters that it has a strategic partnership with Baidu and that any further cooperation is subject to discussion. Geely told Reuters it was not familiar with the matter.
The initiative would distinguish Baidu from its internet rivals such as Tencent, Amazon.com and Alphabet, all of which have developed auto-related technology or invested in smart-car startups.
Baidu has been developing autonomous driving technology and internet connectivity infrastructure after establishing its autonomous driving unit Apollo in 2017. The unit mainly supplies artificial intelligence technology and has partnered with automakers such as Geely, Volkswagen AG, Toyota Motor Corp and Ford Motor Co.
From its inception in 2017, Baidu’s Apollo unit has gathered 500 ecological partners in three years on its Android autonomous driving platform.
Baidu’s move comes after Didi’s official release of the world’s first customized online car, the D1, according to Didi, which is a tailor-made model jointly designed and developed by Didi and BYD. As the first car model made by a travel platform, the D1 was developed after researching 550 million passengers, the needs of tens of millions of drivers and data of tens of billions of trips. Back in January, tech giant Sony Corp unveiled an electric autonomous concept car.