Baidu CEO’s self-driv­ing car stunt stumps po­lice: Me­dia

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

Chi­nese in­ter­net gi­ant Baidu’s roll-out of a new self-driv­ing car may have po­lice try­ing to fig­ure out who to ticket, lo­cal me­dia re­ported yes­ter­day, af­ter CEO Robin Li took one of the ve­hi­cles for a joyride on a Bei­jing high­way. The com­pany’s bil­lion­aire founder live streamed him­self catch­ing a ride in a semi-au­ton­o­mous car on the way to a con­fer­ence for de­vel­op­ers hop­ing to learn about the soft­ware gi­ant’s new ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence ini­tia­tives.

A packed au­di­to­rium, in­clud­ing an AFP re­porter, oo­hed and aa­hed over the video of Li rid­ing in the pas­sen­ger seat of the car, part of a pre­sen­ta­tion in­tro­duc­ing Baidu’s new tech­nol­ogy. In the broad­cast, a driver sat with his hands in his lap, watch­ing as the ve­hi­cle ap­par­ently ma­neu­vered it­self along a high­way on the out­skirts of the city and headed to­wards the con­ven­tion cen­tre where Li was sched­uled to speak. As the car sped along the high­way, a pre­sen­ter asked the celebrity CEO to de­scribe the trip.

“Even though... there are quite a few cars, it is very smooth,” he replied to a round of ap­plause. But at­ten­dees were not the only ones watch­ing the pub­lic­ity stunt, ac­cord­ing to the Bei­jing Youth Daily, which said that lo­cal po­lice were in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether the CEO had bro­ken any laws by op­er­at­ing the car on the city’s high­ways. A spokesper­son from the Bei­jing traf­fic man­age­ment au­thor­ity said that the in­ci­dent had been “re­ported” but would not con­firm there was an in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Baidu de­clined to com­ment.

The com­pany has pre­vi­ously tested its cars close to its cam­pus in Bei­jing’s north­west with­out in­ci­dent, and it is work­ing with the gov­ern­ment to de­velop rules for self-driv­ing cars, which cur­rently ex­ist in a le­gal grey area. In any case, the car was not fully au­ton­o­mous: it uses tech­nol­ogy, sim­i­lar to highly ad­vanced cruise con­trol, which al­lows its driver to take his hands off the wheel while stay­ing in the proper lane, keep­ing up with traf­fic and even break­ing to avoid ob­sta­cles. The tech­nol­ogy, how­ever, may have a few bugs to work out. Dur­ing the video, the car ap­peared to cross over a solid line on the high­way and even seemed to cut off an­other driver. —AFP

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