• Robin Li, Baidu's CEO

Robin Li, Baidu's CEO (Photo : Getty Images News)

Baidu Inc. is looking to rival Tesla Inc. in the burgeoning electric cars industry by tapping the expertise of French 3-D design software maker Dassault Systemes.

The two groups are seeking cooperation in developing electric cars, Internet-connected cars and smart city projects.

Bernard Charles, CEO of Dassault Systemes, met with Baidu president Zhang Yaqin last week on the sidelines of the Boao Forum for Asia in Hainan Province before the Chinese firm announced that it has made an investment in Chinese electric car, NextEV.

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Charles said that NextEV is their client which "uses Dassault Systemes to design" cars. However, he declined to share details of the plan, but hinted about Baidu patterning their virtual city program to Singapore.

Dassault Systemes collaborated with Singapore to launch a 3-D city model platform for community collaboration and knowledge sharing in Dec. 2014.

Called Virtual Singapore, the city model has a rich data environment and visualization techniques utilized by Singaporeans and local businesses for developing tools and services.

Charles said that as Baidu is also working to provide cloud infrastructure, and the French company can share its 3-D experience on the cloud.

Last Nov. 30, Baidu launched an artificial intelligence platform called "Tianzhi" that expands cloud use among commercial users during the "ABC Summit" in Beijing. The platform boasts of three sub-layers, namely: deep learning, machine learning and perception.

According to Wenfeng Automobile Consultancy founder and CEO Zhang Zhiyong, the virtual reality partnership with Dassault will allow Baidu's online services become integral to electric cars right from the design stage.

He added that with Dassault's years of experience in the area, the ties will boost Baidu's competitiveness.

Charles added that Dassault Systemes is also eager about applying virtual reality to the manufacturing industry of China, and believes that the cost of its industrial application will quickly go down over the next five years.