Baidu, the Google equivalent in China has worked together with SoftBank (investors in robotics as well as ride-hailing companies such as Grab and Uber) to bring autonomous busses to Japan. The two tech companies will bring their self-driving technology research to King Long, a commercial vehicle manufacturer in China and deploy the Apolong self-driving minibus for the Japanese market.
Apolong is a minibus which runs fully autonomous. It is a brainchild between both Baidu and King Long. Powering the Apollo is an open-source autonomous driving technology which was created by Baidu and is China’s first fully self-driving electric bus to enter the volume production phase.
Through SoftBank subsidiary, SB Drive Corp., the team aims to introduce these busses on Japanese public roads and perform tests till next March. SB Drive have been performing government-sponsored tests in Okinawa as well as at Haneda Airport in Tokyo.
“We are very excited to bring the Apolong minibus to Japan and work with local experts to unlock the benefits of this transformative technology. The open collaborations between the engineers and researchers from both countries will undoubtedly accelerate the development of autonomous vehicles,” Charles Zhang, president of Baidu Japan Inc., said in a statement.
“In Japan, public transportation is facing a number of challenges, including traffic network reduction, driver shortage and driver aging. We expect self-driving technology will solve these problems in the future,” said Yuki Saji, head of SB Drive.