Chinese search giant Baidu plans to establish a CNY10 billion ($1.6 billion) fund to invest in self-driving technologies and expand the ecosystem of its Apollo autonomous vehicle platform.
In its 2017 earnings report, the company said Apollo is compatible with computing platforms including Nvidia, Intel, NXP and Renesas. The company signed up more than 90 partners to the programme one of which, automaker BAIC Group, plans to use the platform to mass-produce vehicles with level 3 autonomous features around 2019 and fully autonomous level 4 cars around 2021.
Baidu CFO Herman Yu (pictured) said: “Entering 2018, we plan to continue our strategy to exit non-core businesses and increase investments in Baidu’s mobile and new AI businesses, which we believe play to our strengths as a technology leader and will sow the seed for Baidu’s future growth in autonomous driving and conversational AI, particularly in the home environment.”
The company’s net income in 2017 increased 58 per cent year-on-year to CNY18.3 billion, while total revenue rose 20 per cent to CNY84.8 billion. Online marketing revenue expanded 13 per cent to CNY73.1 billion. Mobile revenue represented 73 per cent of total revenue, up from 63 per cent in 2016.
Baidu had about 775,000 active online marketing customers by end-2017, representing a 21 per cent decrease from 2016.
R&D expenses jumped 25 per cent year-on-year to CNY3.7 billion, which it said was to mostly to higher staff costs.