Baidu and China’s BAIC Motor developing Level 3 autonomous cars

At CES on Friday, Baidu announced a partnership with Chinese passenger vehicle maker BAIC Motor, to work together on a developing smart car tech, and Level 3 autonomous driving in particular. Vehicles resulting from this partnership with Level 3 autonomy will be entering road tests by the end of 2017, Baidu says.

Level 3 autonomy still requires human drives to be present, but less intervention is required on their part, and active monitoring isn’t a key component. Level 3 is seen as one to be avoided by some carmakers, including Ford, because of the complications involved in requiring a human driver to intervene on occasion but also allowing them to decrease their attention to their surroundings.

The other major part of the partnership includes Baidu offering telematics to BAIC, which will take place in the first half of 2017, and their agreement extends more broadly to collaboration on HD maps for use in autonomous driving, and in BAIC providing OEM capabilities for Baidu’s intelligent vehicle program in general. The two companies are also jointly launching a new research lab as part of their joint efforts.

BAIC Motor is the passenger car sub-group of BAIC Group, which is a state-owned automaker that also operates Foton Motor, the commercial and agricultural vehicle maker that Baidu partnered with in November to create an autonomous truck.

Baidu says it’s going to work to continue to expand its roster of automobile OEM partners, but besides its new arrangement with Foton, it also had some less positive news in November when Reuters reported that its joint research effort with BMW had fallen through. Dance partners are likely to change plenty before we see any actual self-driving cars out on the road, but Nvidia has been locking down new partners recently with new product-focused team-ups with both Audi and Mercedes-Benz announced at CES.