Microsoft joins autonomous driving alliance Apollo

Microsoft has teamed up with Chinese internet search provider Baidu on a project that aims to advance autonomous driving.

The US company announced last week that it will join Baidu’s Apollo alliance, an open-source software platform that supports all major features and functions of an autonomous vehicle.

Microsoft’s cloud computing service Azure will provide global scale for the Apollo platform outside of China.

Commenting on the partnership, Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President, Kevin Dallas, said: “We’re excited to partner with Baidu to take a giant step in helping automotive manufacturers and suppliers fully realise the promise of autonomous driving.”

“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.”

Apollo plans to allow any hardware maker to quickly deploy and customise an autonomous driving system. More than 50 companies from a wide range of sectors have joined the Apollo alliance, including Ford, Daimler, Bosch, Continental, Nvidia, Intel and TomTom.

“Apollo is an important milestone for the automotive industry,” said Qi Lu, Baidu’s Chief Operating Officer (COO), quoted by The Verge. “It is in essence the ‘Android’ of the autonomous driving industry, but more open and more powerful. Apollo is not solely Baidu’s. It belongs to everyone in the ecosystem. And as we and our partners contribute to the platform in our areas of specialty, we all gain more, with the results far greater than just our own.”

Welcoming Microsoft to the Apollo alliance, Baidu’s President, Ya-Qin Zhang, said: “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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