It’s opening day at the Baidu annual developer conference, where China’s leading search engine tries to wow the tech world with its latest offerings. The company is trying to show the world that it’s not just a search engine anymore, as it seeks to recast itself as an artificial intelligence (AI) specialist with a focus on autonomous driving.
Baidu’s core search business has been under pressure lately due to a slowing domestic ad market, as well as negative publicity surrounding some of the practices at its core search business. It will try to keep all that out of the spotlight over the next two days, and instead focus on the future.
The following live blog includes the latest highlights from the conference, starting with the most recent.
Update 12:29 p.m.
Company officials give update on Baidu’s ambitious efforts to become China’s leader in autonomous driving, as part of its broader program titled Apollo.
The company now has 300 vehicles conducting autonomous driving tests in 13 cities, and is working with domestic carmaker FAW-Hongqi to develop driverless taxis that will be launched in the Central China city of Changsha. Baidu says progress has been good for development and production of the vehicles, which are being produced by FAW.
According to Baidu, around 100 vehicles for the Changsha project, to be called “Apollo Go,” will be produced and operated as a pilot fleet in the city by the end of this year. A larger fleet will come later.
Update 11:13 a.m.
Global chip-making giant Intel has been working closely with Baidu in the past 10 years, and will keep collaborating with the AI-first company in both hardware and software sectors in the future, according to Naveen Rao, Intel’s Corporate Vice President and General Manager of Artificial Intelligence Products Group.
As a highly valuable partner to Baidu, Intel has been invited to all annual AI conferences Baidu has organized. The company also provides solutions to Baidu’s autonomous driving project Apollo.-------------
Update 10:47 a.m.
Baidu will partner with China’s 5G pioneer Huawei to integrate Baidu AI development platform PaddlePaddle with Huawei Kirin chip’s R&D, Baidu’s chief technology officer Wang Haifeng said. According to a Huawei executive, the company has already collaborated with Baidu in chip development for Huawei’s high-end Kirin 970 chip.
Update 10:00 a.m.
Baidu and Chinese carmaker Geely will work together in smart transportation projects such as the internet of things (IoT) for vehicles, Baidu Chairman Robin Li and Geely Chairman Li Shufu say in a joint announcement.
The tie-up will allow users to send information such as addresses via Baidu’s voice-recognition smart speakers to Geely drivers whose vehicles are equipped with supporting software. Baidu is already China’s leading maker of smart speakers.
The new alliance is part of Baidu’s broader goal to popularize smart vehicles in China, the company says. As of June, Baidu voice assistant software has been installed in more than 400 million devices, the company said at the event.
Update 9:56 a.m.
During Baidu’s annual conference for AI, a man opened a bottle full of liquid and slowly poured it over Baidu chairman and CEO Robin Li‘s head when the co-founder of China’s internet behemoth was giving a keynote speech on smart transportation.
Looking up at the man, Li controlled his anger and surprise and asked, "What’s your problem?" Over 1,000 audience-members, including Baidu partners, developers, investors and global media were watching at the time.
The man was then controlled by security. His motive is unknown.
Li later said there will be different things going during the journey of AI’s development, and Baidu’s determination will not change.