Tech

Microsoft teams with Baidu to help bring its self-driving car project to the world

Baidu is getting an assist from Microsoft to expand its self-driving sights beyond China.

Baidu, the company behind China’s largest search engine and other assorted Google-esque projects, just got a big hand from the West to expand its self-driving car project around the world.

Microsoft announced a new partnership with the Chinese company to help bring the Baidu open source autonomous car software platform, Apollo, across international borders by providing "global scale" via the Azure cloud.

Baidu launched Apollo to create an open source self-driving platform in the mold of the Android OS by sharing resources and developments among a field of associated companies. The project boasts partners from just about every corner of the auto and tech industries, from major players like Intel, Nvidia, Bosch, Delphi, Daimler, and Ford to smaller companies like Grab and other Asian affiliates.

Microsoft was already a member of the alliance before the Azure partnership — but by adding its smart cloud capabilities to the effort, Baidu’s open source repository of resources could become even more attractive to companies that have yet to join.

The Azure connectivity gives Apollo strong street cred in international markets, allowing members of the alliance to access the shared materials on a reliable, convenient platform without having to build out their own cloud infrastructure.

Microsoft has multiple partnerships with carmakers to provide the brains for their automotive brawn. The software giant has teamed with Nissan, Volvo, and BMW to bring Skype for Business and Cortana into their vehicles, while its larger Connected Vehicle Platform is an even bigger play to use Azure to create a smarter driving experience for the next generation of cars — which, if automakers have their way, won’t always need a person to do the driving.

The latest iteration of Baidu’s autonomous platform was trotted out for the company’s recent Create AI developers conference, when CEO Robin Li took a live-streamed joyride in a self-driving car. The ride caught extra attention around the world, since it was illegal in Baidu’s native China, but with a Microsoft Azure cloud platform to host Apollo, it’s much more likely that we’ll see future demonstrations of the tech on foreign (and legal) shores.

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