Weekly Brief: China's Baidu and BMW set to release self-driving car in 2015

In this week’s Brief: Google, Baidu, BMW, KAMAZ, Daimler, Apple CarPlay, Cadillac, Worldwide Developers Conference, Google Street View, Apple Maps, PSA, MirrorLink, Car Easy Apps, BlackBerry and Jaguar Land Rover.


What is it with internet search giants and self-driving cars?


Just a few weeks after Google announced that its first autonomous vehicle prototype would hit streets for public testing in the San Francisco Bay Area this summer, Chinese internet search giant Baidu countered with plans to have a prototype on Chinese streets before 2015 is through.


Unlike Google, which so far is committed to manufacturing its self-driving Google Car on its own, Baidu is following a more conventional path that focuses on software while leaving the car stuff to the folks who make cars. Specifically BMW, which has been working with Baidu on a self-driving research project since 2014.


If this is a race, we wouldn’t bet against Baidu, given the fact that Google and any other carmaker attempting to introduce self-driving cars into the closely regulated markets of the West will have to navigate complicated, yet-to-be-fleshed out legislation. Regulations are more likely to be lax in China, by contrast, owing to the government’s proclivity for fast-tracking technologies that shine a positive light on Chinese innovation and industry.


Sticking with self-driving tech, Russian truck maker KAMAZ announced that its self-driving truck, the KAMAZ-5350, is ready for testing. The company has built a test facility outside of Moscow and has ambitious plans for an $87M (£56M) artificial city where it could further test and acclimatise the truck. KAMAZ wants to have the truck prepped for mass production by 2017. KAMAZ’s announcement comes on the heels of Daimler’s unveiling of the Freedom Truck, which has the green light for public street tests in Nevada.


In other news, it was another good week for Apple CarPlay, which landed a second big car brand for 2016 – Cadillac. Two weeks after Chevrolet announced that it would integrate CarPlay across much of its 2016 lineup, Cadillac said it would integrate CarPlay into all of its 2016 cars that feature the Cadillac CUE infotainment system, save for the SRX Crossover. CUE will also feature Android Auto.


CarPlay was also in the spotlight at Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference, where the tech company revealed that its car platform will begin to accommodate carmaker apps. That means no more herky-jerky user experience requiring drivers to switch back and forth between CarPlay and native dashboard apps. Carmaker apps will range from climate control to radio tunes.


One more news item from WWDC: You know Google’s fleet of camera cars that cruise around the world capturing images for Google Street View? They’ve got competition from Apple, which has a new fleet of camera cars setting out on global expeditions this June. The first three stops: Ireland, the UK and the US. The goal is to improve Apple Maps with images and better navigation.


PSA will integrate Android Auto into its 2016 lineup. That means MirrorLink, Android Auto, and the third-party app ecosystem Car Easy Apps will exist side-by-side for PSA drivers. No word on Apple CarPlay.


BlackBerry launched an over-the-air update solution that helps carmakers keep vehicles’ infotainment systems current and functioning in top shape without drivers needing to visit dealerships. BlackBerry will host the OTA solution within its secure network, which can scale to millions of vehicles and thus enable automakers to cost effectively manage their worldwide fleets.


Finally, hate potholes? Buy a Land Rover. The company says it’s researching a new connected car technology that will allow a vehicle to identify the location and severity of potholes, broken drains and manhole covers, and then share this data in real-time via the cloud with other vehicles and with road authorities to help them prioritise repairs. The research is taking place at Jaguar Land Rover’s Advanced Research Centre in the UK, where the next stage is to install new road surface sensing technology in the Range Rover Evoque research vehicle, including an advanced forward-facing stereo digital camera.


The Weekly Brief is a round-up of the week’s top telematics news, combining TU analysis with information from industry press releases.


Andrew Tolve is a regular TU contributor.


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