Google’s driverless car is cool, but Baidu, sometimes dubbed the Google of China, has come up with something that’s both cool and practical for users in China.
Baidu is reportedly working on a self-driving bicycle, Sina’s tech news portal quoted sources close to Baidu as saying. If all goes well, the prototype by Baidu’s Institute of Deep Learning could be out by the end of this year.
The project is being kept under wraps but leaks so far suggest the vehicle will be able to balance itself, and a sensor will help it navigate surroundings and avoid crashes. There are also rumors that it will be able to identify its owner.
Baidu’s bike has applications in various areas, including logistics, which has been beset by the “last mile” problem of getting deliveries quickly through traffic in the final stage of the operation. Courier and logistics firms could deploy the autonomous two-wheeled vehicles to deliver packages and food efficiently and more safely than the drones that Amazon envisages using.
It’s even possible that parents could send the bikes to pick up kids from school and blind and disabled people could use them to have greater mobility.
China was once known as the kingdom of bicycle and was still home to 551 million bikes last year, about four times the number of cars in the country.
That gives some idea of how big the market could be.
The bikes would definitely be more affordable than an unmanned car. According to US-based internet news portable Mashable.com, Google’s driverless car will cost US$10,000 more than regular cars to build, putting it out of the reach of a lot of buyers in China.
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