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Software giant Microsoft Corp has joined forces with China’s leading internet services company, Baidu Inc, in order to take the technical development and adoption of autonomous driving worldwide, particularly through the use of cloud-based services.

According to McKinsey, up to 15% of new cars sold in 2030 will be fully autonomous, which fuels the need for an ecosystem of partners to collaborate in support of a common goal. In April, Baidu launched Apollo, an open platform that provides a comprehensive, secure and reliable solution that supports all major features and functions of an autonomous vehicle.

The project consists of cloud services, an open software stack, and reference hardware and vehicle platforms. More than 50 partners from a wide range of sectors have joined the Apollo alliance, including global navigation and mapping service provider TomTom, Tier One suppliers Bosch and Continental, and Southeast Asia’s leading ride-hailing platform Grab.

As a member of the alliance, Microsoft will provide global scale for Apollo outside of China with its Azure cloud platform. Microsoft has already been working with leaders in the automotive industry to help manufacturers ingest huge volumes of sensor and usage data from connected vehicles, and apply that data to deliver actionable intelligence.

Companies including BMW, Ford, Renault-Nissan, Toyota and Volvo are adopting Microsoft’s intelligent cloud technology to help with multiple driver and vehicle services. As part of the partnership, Baidu and Microsoft plan to explore opportunities to deliver connected vehicle systems and services that aim to digitally transform the autonomous driving industry.

“We’re excited to partner with Baidu to take a giant step in helping automotive manufacturers and suppliers fully realize the promise of autonomous driving,” said Kevin Dallas, corporate vice president at Microsoft.

“Today’s vehicles already have an impressive level of sophistication when it comes to their ability to capture data. By applying our global cloud AI, machine learning, and deep neural network capabilities to that data, we can accelerate the work already being done to make autonomous vehicles safer.”

Baidu’s president, Ya-Qin Zhang, added, “We are excited to have Microsoft as part of the Apollo alliance. Our goal with Apollo is to provide an open and powerful platform to the automotive industry to further the goal of autonomous vehicles. By using Azure, our partners outside of China will have access to a trustworthy and secure public cloud, enabling them to focus on innovating, instead of building their own cloud-based infrastructure.”

 

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