Sunday, May 19, 2024

"Baidu Launches New $28,000 Robotaxi In Wuhan"

Although we had two posts on the subject I may not have emphasized enough how big an opportunity Elon Musk's deals with Baidu actually are. First, some background:

China has a communist government, they pick winners and losers in business, that's what communists do.

We first became aware of how important this understanding is in the case of the Chinese rare earth companies. Here's a snip from a 2009 post, "Inner Mongolia Baotou Steel Rare-Earth Hi-Tech Co., Ltd. UP 10% Wednesday (600111: Shanghai)", this is a couple years before the twenty-tweens rare earth mania:

....China's moves to tighten control on the mining and export of a class of metal ores called rare earth are aimed at attracting high-tech manufacturing to Inner Mongolia, and not at dominating the market, a senior Chinese official said.

Wednesday's comments by Zhao Shuanglin, vice chairman of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, appear aimed at quelling concerns that China is trying to dominate the global market for rare-earth resources, used in some environmentally friendly technologies. Rare-earth metals greatly improve batteries made for hybrid cars....

...China also is taking steps to consolidate its rare-earth industry. Mr. Zhao, who said he runs the region's industrial policy, said Inner Mongolia Baotou Steel Rare Earth Hi-Tech Co. would lead that consolidation. The move is aimed at creating a group of rare-earth miners and processors in the region's western parts. Inner Mongolia Baotou Steel Rare Earth's stock rose 7.6% in Shanghai trading Wednesday.

"Most of the consolidation is complete," Mr. Zhao said. "We want to build Baotou into an international rare earth production base."....

By November 2010 the story was:
"Rare Earth: Inner Mongolia Baotou Steel Rare Earth Hi Tech Co. Ltd. Reports 369% Increase in Q3 Net":
This is the big dog.
And one that the Chinese government says will be on top of the mandated industry consolidation.

IMBSREHTCL was chosen to succeed.

In the case of artificial intelligence it was apparent by 2017 that Baidu, known in the West as a search engine, was the anointed one for machine learning and such. Some of our headlines:

May 2015: Baidu Artificial Intelligence Beats Google, Microsoft In Image Recognition 

February 2017:"How Chinese Internet Giant Baidu Uses AI And Machine Learning"   

February 2017: "China is funding Baidu to take on the US in deep-learning research"

April 2017: "The Mobile Internet Is Over. Baidu Goes All In on AI"

September 2017: "China's Baidu launches $1.5 billion autonomous driving fund

December 2017: "Interview With CEO Robin Li on Baidu's (and China's) Goal Of Ruling Artificial Intelligence"

So yes, you could say Baidu is the Inner Mongolia Baotou Steel Rare Earth Hi-Tech Co. of Chinese AI. Though it's quicker just to say Baidu.

And the headline story from Forbes, May 14:

Baidu, the tech company sometimes called the “Google of China” announced its new 6th generation robotaxi, with plans to deploy 1,000 of them in Wuhan this year. They also forecast they will be profitable in 2025 (on a “unit economy” basis, a type of gross margin.) The new vehicle, which costs them 200,000 RMB to build (around $27,500 USD) is half the cost of their previous generation vehicle.

While the new vehicles retain a wheel and pedals, they will operate without safety drivers in Wuhan, where 70% of Baidu Apollo Go’s robotaxi operations currently are without a safety driver, according to the company.

They are also lowering costs by automating a lot of their depot operations. These vehicles use automatic battery swap to recharge, and Apollo Go states that vehicle activation, dispatch, cleaning and retrieval will all be done without human intervention. On the software side, they announced a new foundation model (AI technology) will now be doing the driving, and is flexible enough to deploy in new cities with about 6 months of effort....


The April 29 headline focused on Tesla and the government:
"Tesla Stock Jumps As Elon Musk Scores FSD Wins In China Visit" (TSLA)

But this from May 15 was just as important:
"Baidu’s Robotaxi Nears Profitability, While US Peers Are Stuck in Neutral"

And May 17 "Reuters Exclusive: Musk pushes plan for China data to power Tesla's AI ambitions (TSLA)

Musk seems to have gotten quite a bit done on his visit to China. The outro from a different April 29 post, this one on CATL's new battery that can charge at the rate of one kilometer of range per second

....And just for grins and giggles, from Reuters, April 29:

CATL boss visits Elon Musk's Beijing hotel on Tesla CEO's surprise trip
Now back to Baidu:
"Baidu’s voice cloning AI can swap genders and remove accents"
It looks as if I'm going to have to go through that whole "What is real?" thing again....