China: BMW and Baidu start automated driving testing image

BMW and local Internet giant Baidu are pushing forward the beginning of a project that involves highly automated driving trials in Beijing and Shanghai.

The German automaker has already spent thousands of hours gathering thousands of kilometers of trials on German autobahns with its research cars capable of near self-driving. BMW said that after starting the trials in the two metropolis, the project would expand to encompass other big cities in China. The prototype cars would operate initially on the highways in and around Beijing and Shanghai.

“BMW is embarking on a further research project which will pave the way for highly automated driving in China as well,” the automaker said in a statement. “China’s fast-expanding urban centers present the engineers with challenges such as multilevel highways.”

Baidu – a counterpart to the global Internet powerhouse Google – has China’s biggest search engine and also provides other related services, such as maps and cloud computing.

BMW needs to partner with a telecom and/or internet provider in each country for its semi-autonomous cars. The main reason is that such cars rely on highly accurate map data to pin point their location and ensure safe driving. Currently, the cars have a limited memory, so they need to be able to download the needed map data on the go so they won’t be in danger of missing a turn and cause an accident.