Apollo, Baidu’s Open Autonomous Driving Platform

Rolls Out Compact Bus Installed with Level 4 Autonomous Driving Technology



Apolong, Baidu’s mass-produced compact autonomous bus.(CES Asia 2017)

 In July 2018, Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent were listed as the top three in the list of 2018’s Top Chinese Internet Companies announced by the Internet Society of China and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT). According to the announcement, the total operating income of the top 100 companies saw a y/y increase of 82.6% for a total of RMB 270.71 billion, with 11 of those companies seeing 40% y/y growth. Internet-related income for Alibaba and Tencent, the top two companies, account for more than 25% of the total internet-related income for the entire top 100.

 The three companies together are referred to as BAT, using the first three letters of each company name, with each company establishing a firm position in its respective field:Baidu in search services, Alibaba in e-commerce (B2C, B2B), and Tencent in online games and SNS. In order to deliver and expand services to meet the needs of consumers and companies, each company has had to rapidly acquire other companies and establish new business ventures. As a result, the three companies have become massive platforms with a major influence in the worlds of finance, retail, physical distribution, education, manufacturing, and more.

 Baidu, the largest Chinese search engine and one of the three pillars of BAT, has sales that are roughly 1/3 that of Alibaba and Tencent. Scandals related to healthcare advertising in 2016 led to stronger governmental regulations, resulting in lower net income. In an attempt to exit the profit structure of internet advertising, Baidu is now aggressively pursuing autonomous driving technologies. In April 2017, the company announced Apollo, an open autonomous driving platform. In November 2017, the company was subcontracted by the government as one of the companies selected to pursuing the nation’s next generation AI innovation platforms.

Related reports:

CES Asia 2018: Electric, intelligent, and connected vehicles(Aug.2018)
Emerging Chinese EV makers: Rapid development with IT investment and partnerships (Apr. 2018)



An ecosystem formed from BAT

  Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent (BAT) have each expanded their services and acquired other companies, becoming massive industry platforms in the process. Each member of BAT has unique specializations, including search engines, e-Commerce, and online gaming and SNS that, as a result, accumulate enormous amounts. They deliver services to meet the daily life needs of their users, and are also developing payment systems, physical distribution systems, and other infrastructure elements. Most of these services are not supplied by the individual companies directly, but are delivered to users by partner companies (including acquired subsidiaries). BAT derives earnings by developing the base platforms for delivering services, then pairing companies with users. By working to provide services for applications such as searches, purchases, payment, and usage, they can continue to improve the user experience through repetition.

Baidu Alibaba Tencent
Biggest Search Engine in China e-commerce Largest Chinese Game Developer/SNS
Established 2000 1999 1998
Founder Robin Li Jack Ma Pony Ma
HQ Location Beijing city Hanzhou city Shenzhen city
Revenue(in millions of RMB) 84,809(2017y) 250,266(2018y) 237,760(2017y)
Cloud service Baidu Cloud Ali Cloud Tencent Cloud
Payment Method Baidu Wallet Alipay WeChat Pay
Emerging EV NIO, WM Motor Xiaopeng WM Motor
Ride-sharing - DiDi DiDi, Meituan Dache
Logistics Suning Cainiao JD Logistics
Mapping Baidu Map AutoNavi QQ Map
e-commerce - Taobao, Tmall JD, Pinduoduo

(Source: Created by MarkLines based on press releases and media reports)


Baidu:Aiming to exit web-advertising-focused profit structures by focusing on autonomous driving


  Baidu, the largest internet search provider in China, was founded in Beijing in 2000, and listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange in 2005. The Chinese government strengthened the regulations on internet advertising following a healthcare ad scandal in spring 2016. Ultimately, this resulted in Baidu earning a net profit of only CNY 11.63 billion in 2016, reflecting a 61.7% y/y decrease from the previous year. The company recovered in 2017, with a gross income of CNY 84.81 billion, reflecting a 20.2% y/y increase, resulting in a net profit of CNY 18.3 billion, or a 57.3% y/y increase.

  A pronounced difference in sales revenue between Baidu and Alibaba/Tencent has become apparent in recent years. Though Baidu has highly developed search services (maps, translation, library (documents)), the company lacks strong e-commerce businesses like the ones of Alibaba and Tencent, which are tied directly and indirectly to the Group’s company sales. Additionally, the company has completely lost all of its market share to Alibaba’s Alipay and Tencent’s WeChat Pay in the QR-code-based payment sector, a payment method currently sweeping the Chinese market.




Baidu Financial Results

December Settlement Term/(in 1 million RMB) 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Total Revenue 31,944 49,052 66,382 70,549 84,809
Operating profit 11,192 12,804 11,672 10,049 15,691
Income before income taxes 12,218 14,484 37,907 14,509 21,283
Net income * 10,552 13,197 33,664 11,632 18,301

*Net income attributable to Baidu, Inc.
(Source:Created by MarkLines based on the Baidu, Inc. annual report)


Projects in the field of autonomous driving subcontracted by the government

  Baidu began aggressively exploring autonomous driving at an earlier stage than Alibaba and Tencent in an attempt to withdraw from a profit structure overly dependent on internet advertising. The company was able to realize  a concrete exit plan with the announcement of its autonomous-driving platform Apollo in April 2017. Apollo’s ecosystem is formed not just with the support of OEMs and parts suppliers, but governmental bodies, research institutions, and media as well. In November 2017 the company was designated by the government to be one of the companies to pursue China’s next generation AI innovation platforms. Following this, major foreign OEMs also started joining Baidu’s Apollo plan in quick succession.

  In May 2018, Level 4 open-road testing of the Apollo open source platform was carried out in Xiongan, the state-level new Baoding economic development zone established in Hebei, China as part of the government’s Millennium Plan. In July, the company launched the small-lot mass market production of the Apolong, a self-driving mini bus installed with Level 4 autonomous-driving technology. Apolong buses are currently in operation in ten cities across China. The company plans to begin verification testing in Japan in collaboration with SB Mobile.


Apollo’s autonomous driving roadmap

2018 Production-level Closed Vennue Automous Driving
2019 Geo-fenced City Roads Autonomous Driving
Production-level Geo-fenced City Roads Autonomous Driving
2020 Production-level Simply City Roads Autonomous Driving
2021 Highway and City Roads Autonomous Driving

(Source:Created by MarkLines based on Baidu’s Apollo site as of November 2018)


Baidu’s major autonomous driving-related activities
2014 Aug. Begins autonomous driving research.
2015 Dec. Establishes an autonomous driving division. Plans include have a commercially viable autonomous driving platform within three years, and mass production vehicles in five years.
2016 Apr. Establishes autonomous driving R&D lab in Silicon Valley.
Aug. Announces joint investment with Ford in the amount of USD 150 million to Silicon Valley LiDAR sensor technology company Velodyne.
Sept. Announces its “Baidu Brain” AI technology suite.
Signs a partnership with NVIDIA to develop an AI-based autonomous driving platform.
Oct. Signs a strategic partnership with Foton Motor to pursue autonomous driving, connected cars, and big data-related opportunities.
2017 Jan. Constructs a joint laboratory with BAIC on deep learning for Level 3 autonomous driving and learning maps, product marketing based on DaaS(Data as a Service), and collaboration on the promotion of customer services, etc.
Apr. Announces the conversation-based AI assistant DuerOS open platform at CES 2017.
Announces Apollo, an open autonomous driving platform.
Conducts test drives at the autonomous driving course at FAW’s technology center with FAW Jie fang.
May Signed a strategic alliance agreement with Continental (the partnership includes areas of collaboration for autonomous driving, connected cars, and intelligent mobility).
Jun. Agrees to a strategic alliance framework with Bosch in the field of smart mobility, using “The Bosch Road Signature” to enable automated vehicles to determine their location at all time, with the service being provided by Bosch.
Allied itself with Changan Automobile to explore R&D in areas related to intelligent mobility and the mass production of autonomous cars.
Agrees to a memorandum of strategic cooperation with Chery Automobile for activities relating to autonomous vehicles (manufacturing, IoV (Internet of Vehicle), high-resolution mapping, etc.).
Jul. Announces the joint development of high-precision maps with TomTom.
Aug. Enters into an agreement with JAC Motors for autonomous driving, aimed at the mass-production of autonomous vehicles by the end of 2019.
Sept. Agreement on a strategic framework with ZF for autonomous driving.
Oct. Agreement on a strategic framework with the BAIC Group.
Nov. Signs a strategic agreement between Lifan Group, Baidu, and car-sharing-platformer Panda Auto for the development of  autonomous driving-related technologies.
Dec. Signs a strategic agreement with Xiongan and AI City to develop pilot models.
2018 Jan. Announces Apollo 2.0 at the CES 2018.
Mar. Acquires the first temporary vehicle license plate numbers in Beijing for the testing of autonomous vehicles.
Apr. Signs a strategic agreement with Sokon Motors, a new company of the Sokon Group.
Aims for the mass-production of Level 3 autonomous vehicles around 2020 and Level 4 autonomous vehicles around 2021.
Signs a strategic alliance memorandum with Great Wall Motor to explore areas related to car sharing, connectivity, big data, etc.
May Conducts autonomous driving testing in Xiongan.
Jun. Signs a strategic alliance between Baidu, BYD, and car-sharing platformer Dadao in the fields of autonomous driving technologies and car sharing.
Honda announces participation in the Baidu’s Apollo program.
Jul. Intel-affiliated Mobileye technology used in Baidu’s Apollo Plan as part of Baidu’s autonomous driving alliance.
Cooperates on developing an autonomous driving technology platform using NVIDIA and AI technology.
Announces a strategic alliance agreement with Valeo in the field of autonomous driving.
Signs strategic alliance with Suning Logistics to focus on the mass-production of autonomous driving vehicles.
Mass-produced Level 4 autonomous bus Apolong rolls off the production line.
Collaborates with SB Drive to utilize Apolong self-driving buses in Japan.
Signs a memorandum of understanding for BMW to participate as an Apollo board member.
Signs a strategic alliance memorandum with Daimler on autonomous driving and connectivity.
Agrees to integrate Baidu’s connected services into the Mercedes-Benz MBUX infotainment system.
Aug. Signs a strategic alliance with Changan Automobile in the area of autonomous driving and connected cars.
Agrees to a strategic alliance with Great Wall Motors’s WEY brand in the areas of autonomous vehicles and high-precision maps.
Aims to mass produce autonomous vehicles by 2020 Q4.
Sept. Signs a strategic alliance with ZF.
Signs a strategic alliance agreement with intelligent transport system developer China Transinfo.
Oct. Announces joint testing of Level 4 autonomous vehicles with Ford by the end of 2018.
Agrees to conduct testing of self-driving taxis in Changsha.
Signs a memorandum of understanding with PSA in the field of autonomous driving.
Nov. Announces plans for the mass production of Level 4 autonomous vehicles with China’s FAW Group in 2020, and unveils the new level 4 Hongqi E Jing.
Announces the Teshun, an autonomous vehicle developed in conjunction with Jiangling Motors, and Apolong, at the Baidu World exhibition.
Announces a joint project between nine companies, including BYD, Great Wall Motor, JAC, Lifan, and Dadao, to develop automated parking solutions.
Agrees to the joint development of autonomous driving technologies for EVs with Volvo Cars.
VW Group announces its participation in Apollo. It will be work to develop automated valet parking, a necessary technology for Level 3 and 4 autonomous driving, as its first collaborative project.

(Source:Created by MarkLines using Baidu’s announcements and various news reports)


Apollo, an open autonomous driving platform

  Baidu’s Apollo, announced in April 2017, is an open platform provided to OEMs and companies/institutions & groups involved in self-driving vehicle businesses. In other words, companies/institutions & groups participating in Apollo can not only speed up development time using the publicly available designs and source code, but flexibly deploy vehicle software updates and other changes as well. Using Apollo, hardware (devices) and software systems developed by members can be made more efficient, while also receiving support for the development of individual autonomous driving system technologies. Baidu is providing the platform for all of these different systems.

  Apollo 3.0 is comprised of four platforms: a Cloud Service Platform, an Open Software Platform, a Hardware Development Platform, and an Open Vehicle Certificate Platform, that are being upgraded with a focus on safe driving in geofenced areas using mass-produced self-driving vehicles. The results can be seen in the Valet Parking, MicroCar, and MiniBus solutions. The Apolog, a Level 4 self-driving minibus developed in collaboration with King Long, embodies these solutions. The MicroCar is a small-scale unmanned cargo truck developed in collaboration with Neolix. The MicroCar is in operation in Xiongan and Changzhou as of July 2018.


Apollo 3.0 Framework
Cloud Service Platform HD Map Simulation (Scenarios, Execution Modes, Automatic Granding System, 3D Visualization) Data Platform (Simulation Scenarios Data, Annotation Data, Demonstration Data) Security OTA DuerOS Production- level Service Components
Open Software Platform Map Engine (Element retrieval, Spatial retrieval, Format adaptation, Cache management) Localization Perception Planning Control End-to-End HMI
Runtime Framework
Real Time Operation System
Hardware Development Platform Computing Unit GPS/IMU Camera LiDAR RADAR Ultrasonic Radar HMI Device Black Box(Soft Storage/W, Data Reader S/W) Sensor Unit
Open Vehicle Certificate Platform Certified Apollo Compatible Drive-by-wire Vehicle Open Vehicle Interface Standard

(Source:Created by MarkLines based on the Baidu Apollo site and company reports as of October 2018


Companies/organizations involved in Apollo
OEM Parts Manufacturers IT Semiconductors AI Technologies/LiDAR MAP/
China BAIC BJEV, BAIC Motor, BYD, BYTON, CHANGAN, Chery, Dongfeng Motor, China FAW, FAW JieFang, FOTON, Great Wall Motor, JAC, KING LONG, LEOPAARD, Lifan Auto, NIO, SOKON, WM Motor, ZOTYE Auto ADAYO, Desay SV Automotive, E-LEAD,  AUTO-LINK WORLD,  HSAE UAES(JV: United Automotive Electronic System and Bosch)   

Bochuang Liandong, Geek
bang(IT intelligent service platform), IDRIVER+TECHNOLOGIES, NEOLIX, ThunderSoft

Neousys, UNIGROUP SPREADTRUM & RDA Hesai Photonics Technology, HORIZON, iMotion.ai, Jing Chi, Momenta, PATEO, PlusAI, RoadRover, RoboSense, Smarter Eye, TAGE I-DRIVER, TXZING BDStar Navigation, FlyAudio, CHINA TSP, Navtech, racobit
Europe BMW Group, Daimler, Volvo Cars, VW, PSA Bosch, Continental, esd electronics, Valeo, ZF, Delphi, WABCO Infineon, NXP TomTom, OpenDRIVE
North America Ford AutonomouStuff, Leopard Imaging BlackBerry, Microsoft, Visual Theat(security, connected) Analog Devices, Fortemedia, Intel, NVIDIA, On Semiconductor PolySync, Velodyne LiDAR, Innovusion NovAtel(GPS)
Japan Honda Panasonic Renesas Electronics Pioneer
Korea Hyundai Group
Singapore Flex
Other Jaguar & Land Rover


Mobility Services Robot Universities/Research Institutions Government/Local Government/Regional-Affiliates Others
China CHJ Automotive, Dadao, eHi CarServices, iZu, Panda Auto, UCAR COWA ROBOT, GOLDEN RIDGE, HNA Quantum Intelligence, THOR TECH Beihang University, Beijing Institute of technology, CAERI, CiDi, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Tong Ji University, Tsinghua University Anting Shanghai International Automobile City, BaoDing, Beijing Innovation Center for Mobility Intelligent, BEIJINGGETOWN, XiongAn, Chongqing Liang Jiang New Area, Wu Hu, Chang Sha CSCN(Media), LINGBRIDGE CAPITAL,  LOVOL(Machine tool), Suning Logistics, Udacity(Education), ZTE
Singapore Grab

(Source:Created by MarkLines using Baidu’s announcements and various news reports)

DuerOS, embedded with an AI speech and image recognition assistant

  The DuerOS is one of the structural elements in the Apollo open source self-driving vehicle development platform, and one of the 4 Apollo platforms that includes the Cloud Service Platform. By installing the voice-activated AI assistant DuerOS platform, which was announced at CES 2017, it is possible to issue voice commands to compatible devices. Furthermore, most Chinese cars are installed with CarLife (Maps/Calls/Music), which is Baidu’s smartphone connectivity system solution.

  DuerOS-compatible devices are expected to include self-driving cars as well as home electronics, smartphones, etc., and for automotive applications, on-board intelligent voice solutions known as automobile units. From the developer’s standpoint, the introduction of the automobile unit solution allows developers to more efficiently develop navigation systems, intelligent rearview mirrors, and other devices. Users will be able to control devices via voice commands while also take advantage of more convenient wireless updates of content for each system and device. In addition, as of September 2018, there are some 141 million vehicles that have already been installed based on the DuerOS.

  The Xiaodu smart speaker, which is already installed with the voice-activated AI assistant DuerOS, has been released, and in November 2018 at the Baidu Create 2018 developer conference, the Xiaodu In-Car OS AI-based IoV (Internet of Vehicles) solution was announced.


Four major functions of the interactive voice assistant of the DuerOS smart automobile unit solution
Navigation and Road Conditions Use voice to conduct navigation search, find real-time location, surrounding area check, and road conditions
Entertainment Info Play music, choose a song, tune to FM, retrieve audio news, etc.
Info Searches Answering/making telephone calls, car plate restriction notification, weather forecast, flight schedule, set alarm clock
Vehicle  Control Control air conditioner, turning on or off headlights, open or close windows, request seat-alignment, and check in-vehicle conditions

(Source:Created by MarkLines using Baidu’s announcements and various news reports)

BAT, Baidu, AI, Platformer, ecosystem, Apolong, Open platform, antonoumous driving, connected car, Apollo, DuerOS

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