Baidu, a China-based internet company, and BMW Group are parting ways after an announcement from both firms that they would be discontinuing a join research initiative on self-driving cars. Developing the autonomous vehicles still seems to be on the mind of at least one of the companies, however, with Baidu saying it was now in the process of looking for a new global research partner.
The chief of autonomous car development at the internet firm, Wang Jing, said its U.S. testing for self-driving cars was still ongoing, but that it was now using Ford's Lincoln vehicles. Jing declined to explain further, according to Automotive News. He added, however, that Baidu is currently speaking to many potential partners for future joint research initiatives for self-driving cars. "I'm open for any," he said during the third World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, an eastern Chinese city. The decision to end the self-driving car partnership, which included testing in both the U.S. and China, came from both companies.
The CEO of BMW China, Olaf Kastner, told reporters at the Guangzhou Auto Show that the decision stemmed from a difference in opinions over how to move forward with the research. Kastner added, however, that the decision should not take away from the progress made during the joint research initiative. The companies pooled resources in developing automatic overtaking capability, which Kastner saw as a "key milestone" for self-driving cars and the advanced technology that goes behind it. He declined to say what particular disagreements led to the end of the partnership.
Kastner simply said that both the development pace and ideas of Baidu and BMW were "a little different," according to Fortune. It is worth noting, however, that the two firms have chosen to remain partners in the development of high-definition maps, signaling no bad blood between Baidu and BMW. This initiative is an important field to develop for the navigation of self-driving cars, Kastner said. Both companies have plans to begin deploying self-driving vehicles on a large scale by 2021. Baidu aims to commercialize its self-driving cars two years earlier, but on a smaller level.