Baidu, which has decided to drive autonomously early, still wants to penetrate further into the automotive market? On December 15, it was reported that “Baidu has made preliminary contacts with several car companies, including Geely Automobile, to discuss the formation of electric vehicle joint ventures.”
Although a Baidu related person responded to the Beijing Business Daily reporter: No comment on market rumors. However, given that Baidu has already cooperated with many car companies, and has also invested in Weimar and Weilai, industry insiders believe that it is not impossible for Baidu to end up building cars. Since Internet companies in the early days often used open platforms to recruit friends to expand their ecosystems, building a car may turn their original technology provider status into a competitor, which has advantages and disadvantages.
Is mass production and investment a foreshadowing?
On December 15, the amount of news about Baidu’s car manufacturing was not large. However, because there have been discussions about whether Huawei can build a car, and Evergrande’s question about how to build a car, whether Baidu will build a car and how to build a car has caused heated discussions.
The so-called car building is a vague concept. If it is only defined by building a mass-produced car, then Baidu’s car building is already a declarative sentence.
In July 2018, Baidu announced at the AI Developers Conference that the L4-level self-driving bus “Apolong” jointly developed by Baidu and King Long had been mass-produced. In September 2019, the Hongqi EV Robotaxi, a collaboration between Baidu and FAW-Hongqi, took to the streets of Changsha. This car is considered to be China’s first front-loaded and mass-produced Robotaxi.
In addition to the above two cooperations, Baidu has also become the “gold master” of many new energy vehicle companies through capital operations. According to public information, since 2017, Baidu has invested three times in WM Motor, an emerging domestic provider of new energy vehicle products and travel solutions. Weilai Automobile, which has been listed, is also an investment target of Baidu.
Specifically, Geely mentioned in the rumors, and Baidu are long-term partners. In July 2019, Baidu Geely jointly announced a strategic cooperation: starting from Geely Boyue PRO, Geely Automobile will begin to fully integrate the integration of Xiaodu in-vehicle interaction. The system’s GKUI19 system.
However, the focus of Baidu’s car-building rumors on December 15 was to “form an electric vehicle joint venture” rather than cooperation. As of the press release of the Beijing Business Daily reporter, the relevant person of Geely Automobile has not responded to this.
When communicating with reporters from Beijing Business Daily, Wang Chao, founder of Wenyuan Think Tank, said bluntly, “Baidu and Hongqi cooperate in mass production of Robotaxi. Brand, this is the real car-making.”
As for whether Baidu will build a car, Wang Chao thinks it is not impossible. Zhang Xiaorong, president of Deepin Science and Technology Research Institute, speculated: “Baidu and car companies have long had cooperative relations, and the issue of car manufacturing may be under discussion, but it has not yet been determined.” There has been capital export, which has become a trend.”
Foster strengths and circumvent weaknesses to invest in technology?
Since people in the industry generally believe that the possibility of Baidu building a car is not small, what form it adopts has become the focus, and what Baidu is good at is the key to determining the form of cooperation.
Baidu Apollo is a software platform for partners in the automotive industry and autonomous driving, which is Baidu’s core competitiveness in the automotive field. The platform was released by Baidu in 2017. The latest launch is a Lego-style car intelligent solution, including a series of products of “Intelligent Driving, Intelligent Cabin, Zhitu, and Zhiyun”. It helps Chinese car companies with a combination of software and hardware solutions. Build top smart cars.
According to Zhang Xiaorong, Dean of Deepin Science and Technology Research Institute, “Baidu is mainly engaged in the operating system and application ecology of smart cars, similar to Apple’s iOS and ecology. Automobile hardware production requires huge investment, and it is difficult to cross borders. Internet companies are not good at it. In my opinion, the so-called cooperative car manufacturing, Baidu will not intervene in the hardware, mainly the cooperation at the software level.”
Wang Chao’s guess is: “If Baidu ends up building a car, there are two forms, one is to invest only, and the other is to invest in technology.”
In fact, this is also the path for other technology companies to enter the automotive industry. Not long ago, Huawei released a new brand of smart car solutions, HI, which includes three parts: ADS advanced autonomous driving technology, smart cockpit and smart electric. In the future, vehicles that use Huawei’s smart car solutions will be affixed with HI’s LOGO.
This is reminiscent of Huawei’s clear line two years ago – Huawei does not build cars, but we focus on ICT (information and communication technology) to help car companies build good cars. This coincides with the signal released by Baidu Apollo recently.
“Autonomous driving and automotive ICT are actually technologies. Now it seems that Huawei and Baidu will not directly intervene in vehicle manufacturing, but will only do technology. This is what technology companies are best at,” Wang Chao told a reporter from Beijing Business Daily. .
Subtle competition of identity changes
From the perspective of complementarity alone, Baidu and car companies, one has technical advantages and the other has accumulated in the manufacturing industry, hit it off. However, it should be noted that it is precisely because technology companies attach importance to technology that they generally build open platforms for application and verification, and extend olive branches to various industrial partners, in order to provide more scenarios and more data.
But if Baidu, which originally embraced all car companies, now has a joint venture with some car companies, then for car companies, Baidu’s identity will undergo subtle changes.
According to the latest data provided by Baidu, Baidu Apollo’s intelligent driving products have cooperated with more than 70 car companies on 600 models, and achieved more than 1 million units of Xiaodu in-vehicle OS pre-installation and mass production. Apollo high-precision map is the choice of Honda, GAC, Great Wall, BAIC, Weilai, Weimar and other leading car companies.
On Baidu Apollo’s official website, more than 30 BAIC, BYD, BMW, Ford, etc. are Baidu Apollo’s OEM (original equipment manufacturer) ecological partners.
Zhang Xiaorong said bluntly to a reporter from Beijing Business Daily, “Assuming a joint venture to build a car, the advantage for Baidu is that it will get involved in the production and sales of automobile terminals, and the income will be huge; Partners become competitors.”
However, he also said, “At present, it is impossible to know the specific form of cooperation between Baidu and car companies, so it can only be roughly speculated. Maybe there is a new cooperation model.”
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