Autonomous DrivingBMW

BMW Bids Adieu To Baidu


BMW and Baidu have reportedly ended their 2 year long alliance to jointly develop autonomous-driving technology- details from Reuters here. According to BMW’s China CEO Olaf Kastner, the alliance is over because “the development pace and the ideas of the two companies are a little different.” From the Baidu camp, Wang Jing, head of their autonomous vehicles program, stated that he is now “open for any partners, [and] actually I’m talking to many.”

Just a few months ago, on August 31’st (2016), Baidu & NVIDIA announced a new partnership to develop artificial intelligence in the creation of a cloud-to-car autonomous car platform for local Chinese and global car makers, details here. You may recall that earlier this year, Tesla parted company with MobilEye, the Israeli startup that had been supplying the sensors for their cars shortly after the tragic accident in which a Tesla car in self-driving mode failed to detect an truck crossing the vehicles’s path. According to Electrek, “Mobileye confirmed that they will continue to supply Tesla with the EyeQ3 chip, which is currently in Tesla’s vehicles, but the upcoming EyeQ4 and 5 chips, which are required for more advanced autonomous features, will apparently not be part of Tesla’s Autopilot program going forward”. If you suspected that Tesla has a plan B, you would be right & it’s an impressive one. Back in January 2016, Tesla confirmed to Electrek that they had hired Jim Keller, the chip design guru who had previously returned to AMD for three years to design their upcoming Zen platform “Jim Keller is joining Tesla as Vice President of Autopilot Hardware Engineering. Jim will bring together the best internal and external hardware technologies to develop the safest, most advanced autopilot systems in the world.” It wasn’t just Jim Keller who jumped ship from AMD- you can read about the four other senior chip design experts who followed him here.

This must have been bad news for NVIDIA, who’s ambitions in the autonomous driving space are well known. Originally focused on powering the infotainment systems for the world’s leading automakers – check out their design wins and partnership agreements on the company’s website here, NVIDIA has set its sights on a much bigger piece of the pie as evidenced by their recent launch of their Drive PX2, a self-described AI compute for self-driving cars. According to the company’s website, “The new single-processor configuration of the NVIDIA® DRIVE™ PX 2 AI computing platform for AutoCruise functions — which include highway automated driving and HD mapping — consumes just 10 watts of power and enables vehicles to use deep neural networks to process data from multiple cameras and sensors. It will be deployed by China’s Baidu as the in-vehicle car computer for its self-driving cloud-to-car system.” We await with interest to see the results of Tesla & Jim Keller’s work on building their own hardware.

In the meantime, Intel, BMW & MobilEye announced a new autonomous-driving alliance, details here. By the way, to put the whole autonomous driving landscape into perspective, check out this guide to the different levels or classifications in this article. So, the most advanced auto-driving commercially available car on the planet today, the Tesla Model S, is Level 2 on scale from 0 (totally manual) to 4 (totally automated).