So it looks like Google, Tesla, et al have another competitor. Baidu just passed a driverless test. Baidu is a Chinese competitor to Google in other areas as well. In June, the company announced plans to have a self driving car by year end.
I usually think about the automated car in terms that I know, that is American (and to a very limited degree) driving culture. That includes not only America’s love affair with the automobile, but also the legal and safety landscape. How much more, or less, likely is it that another country will be quicker to adapt autonomous vehicles?
There are definitely pros and cons. One of the things that might push third world drivers toward automation is the lack of strict adherence to laws. If current drives are not adhering to laws, there is a benefit to force, via automation, vehicles into obedience. Secondly if others are not obeying traffic legislation, there is an incentive to travel in a safer conveyance, such as an autonomous or at least partially automatic vehicle. This would be matched against a societies valuation of life. If a society values life less, it would not be as likely to incorporate vehicular automation.
Where does that leave us with regards to China. On the one hand, China is not known for putting an extremely high value on life on the other hand, there are individuals who will value their own lives. Those individuals may be very wealthy. In fact, I happen to believe that this may drive innovation in China faster than in the US. The combination of wealthy individuals, inexperienced drivers, clogged roads, and a need to decrease pollution will be a very powerful combination. While the US may have many of those sources of impetus, the roads are less clogged, the pollution is less acute, and most drivers are fairly experienced.
I believe the real question could very well be whether China accepts the idea of autonomy before the US does. Fortunately, this isn’t the sort of race that should lead to severe consequences for any nations not reaching autonomy first. While it is a point of national pride to have the first autonomous car, I suspect that it is a technology that most nations would gladly spread to make money off of.
So what’s the point? The point is, you very well may need to learn how to pronounce “Baidu.”