By Paul Lienert
DETROIT (Reuters) – Baidu Inc, the top Chinese internet search firm, has formed a broad alliance to promote self-driving cars, pitting its Apollo platform against Alphabet Inc’s system, it said on Wednesday, in hopes of getting the vehicles on the road in China by 2019.
The alliance includes partnerships with automakers, suppliers, startups, universities and local governments and is built around Baidu’s Apollo self-driving platform, which was developed at its tech center in California’s Silicon Valley. Apollo is aimed at Alphabet’s Waymo self-driving package.
Among the key development partners on Apollo are Nvidia Corp, which specializes in microprocessors and artificial intelligence, and mapping expert TomTom NV.
In mid-morning trade, Nvidia shares were up 2.6 percent to $142.94 and Baidu U.S. shares rose 2.3 percent to $184.15. In Amsterdam, TomTom was up 3.2 percent to 8.85 euros.
Ford Motor Co and Daimler AG also are partners, Baidu said, as well as supplier Delphi Automotive and chipmaker Intel Corp.
Baidu said at a briefing in Beijing it is partnering with five Chinese vehicle manufacturers, including Chery Automobile [CHERY.UL], BAIC Motor, FAW Group Corp [SASACJ.UL], Chongqing Changan Automobile and Great Wall Motor. All but Great Wall are state-owned.
German suppliers Robert Bosch [ROBG.UL], Continental Automotive and ZF Friedrichshafen [ZFF.UL] are also part of the alliance.
Baidu has said its goal is to get self-driving vehicles on the road in China, possibly by 2019, and eventually in other markets, including the United States.
Baidu is an investor in Nio, a Silicon Valley electric vehicle startup also backed by China’s Tencent Holdings and Lenovo. Nio hopes to put its first self-driving cars on U.S. roads in 2020.
Two weeks ago, top officials from Baidu and Chery met in Silicon Valley to sign an agreement to collaborate on the development of intelligent, internet-connected vehicles, according to a source familiar with the companies’ plans.
Chery has installed Baidu’s self-driving software in several prototype cars in China and they could further deepen their relationship to include manufacturing.
(Additional reporting by Norihiko Shirouzu in Beijing; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)