Baidu to Launch Self-Driving Buses in Japan


Self driving mini bus concepts. / Photo by: Arno Mikkor via Wikimedia Commons


The Chinese multinational tech company, Baidu, is set to launch several of its self-driving buses in Japan next year, announced at the company’s yearly AI developer conference, Baidu Create 2018. The plan is a result of the new partnership between Baidu and SB Drive, a subsidiary of SoftBank.

With this partnership, the Chinese company expects to deliver 10 Apolong buses made by King Long. Each bus unit will be equipped with Baidu’s open-source auto platform, Apollo Auto. The autonomy level of the autopilot platform for the buses will be Level 4 or full autonomy.

Level 4 autonomy is designed to perform all safety-critical driving functions and track roadway conditions for the entire trip. However, it cannot handle every kind of driving scenario, which means the vehicle may demand either a human driver to facilitate or a remote human intervention.

Another revelation announced by Baidu at the conference is the upcoming AI chip called Kunlun. It is designed to handle intensive computing in autopilot systems. It is also capable of running other applications such as natural language processing and search rankings.

So far, there are two known models of Kunlun AI chip. The Kunlun 818-300 will be used to train AI systems while the 818-100 will be applied in the inference of applicable systems which provides the steps of reasoning and logical consequences. The chips are at least 30 times faster compared to the first Field Programmable Gate Array chips of Baidu. Kunlun can process operations with a rate of 260 tera-operations per second and has a 512 GB per second memory bandwidth.

“With the rapid emergence of AI applications, dramatically increasing requirements are being imposed on computational power. Traditional chips limit how much computing power is available and thus how far we can accelerate AI technologies. Baidu developed this chip, specifically designed for large-scale AI workloads, as an answer to this demand,” the company said in a statement.

About 100 Apolong bus units have been made by King Long and Baidu plans to release them on roads in China and Japan by 2019.