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Sept 30 2014, 8.45am GMT


Baidu (BIDU), China’s largest internet search engine, has teamed up with car giant BMW (BMW) and Seagate digital storage provider. Over the last two weeks, Baidu has signed agreements with two of the largest companies in their respective fields.

The joint research contract with BMW to engineer a semi-autonomous car within three years will not go quite as far as the existing Google automated car, which has recently passed the first self-driving test in the U.S. However, using Baidu technology, BMW semi-automated vehicles will take advantage of Baidu’s data services and by focusing efforts on developing and utilizing new high resolution maps, the cars will be able initially to navigate, parallel park and include adaptive cruise control.

One of the main challenges is to create smarter hardware that aims to eventually alleviate China’s urban traffic congestion. Tests are starting in Beijing and Shanghai where the first prototypes will be seen cruising the streets.

The second agreement that Baidu has entered is with Seagate Technology, one of Baidu’s major suppliers of online storage, archiving and data analysis. The agreement will give priority to Baidu for Seagate’s hardware and provide Baidu with a dedicated engineering team. In turn, Baidu will use Seagate as their preferred supplier. Together they are committed to researching low cost storage solutions. This will significantly reduce the costs of data storage and management, a huge expense to any search engine provider.

In the short term, Baidu’s agreement with Seagate is expected to yield good returns in the ever-growing market of big data services. Baidu’s project with BMW, which does not profess to be inventing the self-drive car proposed by Google and therefore will have less obstacles in its path to success, is seen as lucrative in the long term. 

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