Autonomous Buses to Join Self-Driving Connected Cars by 2020

by Matt Klassen on December 15, 2015

145011636257286-baidu-inc-adr-to-launch-selfdriving-buses-by-2020The automotive industry has quickly emerged as the next battleground in mobile and tech, as companies race furiously to produce connected and/or self-driving car technologies. While Google, Apple, and AT&T, among many others, have already waded into this highly regulated industrial quagmire, Chinese search engine company Baidu has its own ambitious goals regarding autonomous automobiles, announcing this week its plan to develop self-driving buses in the next three years, and have them ready for commercial deployment by 2020.

While autonomous, connected vehicles are clearly a significant growth market for tech and mobile companies, consider that the connection of automobiles to wireless networks is really nothing more than a significant subset of the connection of our entire lives, a paradigm altering effort that includes the Internet of Things, connected homes, connected cities, and cloud technologies, in addition to the usual suspects such as smartphones and tablets.

When one imagines the cities of the not-so distant future, cities where every facet of a bustling metropolis is connected to a cohesive and comprehensive wireless network, the thought of connected, self-driving buses or autonomous cars is really not that much of a stretch, so perhaps consider Baidu’s efforts as the start of something much much bigger.

According to Reuters, China’s top online search company Baidu is following in the footsteps of its American counterpart Google, expanding its efforts far beyond the digital realm, working towards the goal of comprehensively connecting the physical world. Like Google, Baidu has decided to start with the automotive industry, attempting to bring the heretofore science fiction notion of driverless vehicles into reality.

To that end, Baidu has already partnered with BMW AG to develop a self-driving car project, and this week added that the same division of the company will aim to put autonomous buses on the road in three years, with mass production scheduled for 2020, although it is unknown if BMW will be involved in creating the futuristic buses.

Of course other than that details are truly sketchy regarding this project, as Baidu has said nothing regarding the amount of R&D resources being directed to the project and has yet to comment on what companies Baidu might partner with to overcome the massive logistical and regulatory issues that surround the concept of a commuter transport that operates without human interaction.

But all that to say, consider this a step towards the future, one where people, cities, and, yes, even vehicles are all connected under one comprehensive wireless umbrella, where buses drive without drivers, where cars operate with computers, where cities think, where homes manage themselves and where people find themselves completely irrelevant.

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