• Baidu conducted a successful road test of its driverless car in China in Dec. 2015.

Baidu conducted a successful road test of its driverless car in China in Dec. 2015. (Photo : YouTube)

Chinese Internet search giant Baidu Inc. is accelerating efforts to lead in developing autonomous cars by investing in a collection of patents and increasing field tests, hoping to move ahead of the race against global technology giants, its Chief Executive Officer Robin Li said on Thursday, March 3.

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The Wall Street Journal reported that Baidu has invested heavily on artificial intelligence on which driverless vehicles rely.

"Artificial intelligence will continue to be an unceasing core for Baidu innovations," Li said on the sidelines of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the annual political assembly that advises China's legislature.

Li said that Baidu has applied for many patents in pursuit of the technology, adding that they will "keep applying as the technology is still at an early stage." He said that the company's few autonomous cars are currently undergoing tests.

Li added that "Internet Plus," a Chinese catchphrase that refers to practical applications that depend on the Internet, would help China with its economic recovery and growth, including the development of autonomous cars and Internet finance.

Fortune reported in January that China is planning to launch autonomous cars in 10 cities within three years and test out their vehicles with a small group of drivers this year in a closed environment, according to Wang Jing, senior vice president overseeing Baidu's driverless vehicle project.

According to the report, Baidu's plan put them in direct competition with companies such Google and Tesla in the race to become the dominant company in the emerging industry.

Boston Consulting Group said that self-driving vehicles could turn into a $42 billion market by 2025.

Automakers like BMW and Audi are also reportedly developing their own technology on driverless vehicles.

Baidu, however, believes that they have an edge in developing autonomous cars for Chinese consumers because of their knowledge of the country's road conditions.

"Many people who have returned after years of living abroad find they're not used to driving in China, are afraid of driving in China because conditions are much more chaotic," Wang was quoted as saying. "If you have a robot that's trained on U.S. roads, for instance, they'll struggle to adapt to the way Chinese cross roads. Our robots are trained on Chinese roads."

In December, Baidu announced that they had completed a fully autonomous test around a 30-kilometer route with different turns and weather conditions.

Baidu has also joined leading Chinese electric car maker BYD to develop the company's AutoBrain system, a software package that would be the key to its autonomous driving goals. The report said that the software uses different technologies, like object recognition and 3D road mapping, to enhance the performance of the driverless vehicle.