Chinese companies are just as interested in autonomous vehicle technology as their American counterparts, and as the Google of China, it’s only natural that Baidu be the company leading the charge for Chinese research in the area. In fact, the company claims that it’s well within the realm of possibility that it’ll have a self-driving car ready to hit the market in as little as three years, which is one of the most ambitious estimates we’ve seen, but securing the government approval necessary to release such a vehicle is another issue.
When are self-driving cars coming? China has an answer, sort of. Baidu chief scientist Andrew Ng told a reporter from the Chinese media outlet PingWest that having a self-driving vehicle ready for sale in three years would be no problem. That doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily be able to buy one, though. Ng says Baidu is going to start with public transportation buses, and it’s not clear whether they’ll have a self-driving sedan in three years capable of handling China’s high-speed highways. Moreover, developing the product and getting government approval for the product are two very different things. There’s good news on that front too: reports suggest that Baidu has made an agreement with the Beijing town of Yizhuang, which it may well use as a testing ground for self-driving public buses. But China’s government tends to be cautious when it comes to the rollout of new technologies, so there could still be a sizeable gap between when self-driving vehicles are ready for the commercial market and when they’re actually in use across the country.