The Chinese giant, best known for its internet search service and AI technology, has prioritized autonomous vehicles in a major way in recent years, so this comes as little surprise. Baidu made its Apollo self-driving car platform freely available to the auto industry earlier this year. That quickly picked up partners and it currently claims around 70, including Hyundai, Bosch, Continental, Nvidia, Microsoft Cloud, Velodyne, TomTom, UCAR and Grab.
Now Baidu — which is testing autonomous vehicles in both China and the U.S. — is doubling down with capital via this new fund, which it said will aim to support around 100 companies over the next three years.
Baidu also shipped a major update to Apollo this week, which added five core capabilities to its platform: obstacle perception, planning, cloud simulation, high-definition (HD) maps and end-to-end deep learning.
This is the second large-scale investment firm Baidu has launched in recent times. Last month, it uncorked a $1.5 billion fund in partnership with China Life Insurance Group targeted at late-stage deals with companies with “significant association” with China.