The first 100 of Baidu's "Level 4" self driving buses have rolled off the production lines, said Robin Li, chief executive of China's largest search engine operator on Wednesday. The self-driving buses, which can seat up to 14 people, were co-developed by Baidu, which is transforming itself into an artificial intelligence (AI) company, and bus maker King Long United Automotive Industry Co. Level 4 operations means that the vehicles can take over all driving in certain conditions. With no steering wheel and high automation, the buses will be put into use in cities including Beijing, Xiongan, Shenzhen and Tokyo, Li said at the Baidu AI Developer forum being held in Beijing. "They will help with shuttle services around nuclear power stations and senior communities in Japan," for example, said Li. Baidu will partner with SB Drive, a subsidiary of SoftBank Group, to export the self-driving buses to Japan. Autonomous vehicles are a key part of the Nasdaq-listed Chinese company's future as it seeks to reshape itself into a major player in artificial intelligence, in line with China's national strategy to develop excellence in the field.
In late September, Beijing unveiled to the world Daxing, a glimmering $11 billion airport showcasing technologies such as robots and facial recognition scanners that many other airports worldwide are either adopting or are now considering. Daxing fits the description of what experts hail as a "smart airport." Just as a smart home is where internet-connected devices control functions like security and thermostats, smart airports use cloud-based technologies to simplify and improve services. Of course, many of the nearly 4,000 scheduled service airports across the world are still embarrassingly antiquated. The good news for aviation is that more facilities are investing, finally, to better serve airlines, suppliers, and travelers. This year, airports worldwide will spend $11.8 billion -- 68 percent more than the level three years ago -- on information technology, according to an estimate published this month by SITA (Société Internationale de Telecommunications Aeronautiques, an airline-owned tech provider). A few trends are driving the rise of smart airports. Flight volumes are increasing, so airports need better ways to process flyers. Airports need better ways to make money, too, by encouraging passengers to spend more in their shops and restaurants. Data is growing in importance. Everything happening at an airport, from where passengers are flowing to which items are selling in stores, generates data. Airports can analyze this data to spot opportunities for eking out fatter profits. They can sell the data to third-parties as well.
AI running in the cloud might be the solution to electric vehicles' battery woes, if Bosch is on the right track. The Stuttgart, Germany-based company this morning announced a new service -- Battery in the Cloud -- designed to supplement vehicles' battery management systems by implementing protections to reduce cell aging. It's able to cut down on wear and tear by as much as 20%, the company claims, through continuous analysis of battery status, optimization of recharging processes, and delivery of energy conservation tips to drivers via in-car displays. The first customer is Beijing-based mobility giant DiDi Chuxing, which as of 2018 had 550 million users and tens of millions of drivers on its platform. Bosch says DiDi will equip a pilot vehicle fleet with its battery services in the city of Xiamen.
The second annual Baidu AI Developers Conference, officially known as Baidu Create 2018, opened in Beijing today. Baidu unveiled China's first cloud-to-edge AI chip, Kunlun, and many other upgraded versions of Baidu's AI products this morning on the first day of this two-day event. Li Yanhong, known as Robin Li, the founder and CEO of Baidu, introduced Baidu's latest research achievements in artificial intelligence (AI) field. Started in 2013, the autonomous driving project was mainly lead and developed by the Baidu Research Institute. At the 2017 Baidu World Congress in November last year, Robin Li stated that Baidu's Level 4 self-driving bus "Apolong" would be mass-produced by July 2018.