China's Baidu partners with BMW on driverless car research

Baidu revealed earlier this month it is working on its own driverless car

Chinese search giant Baidu has entered into a partnership with BMW to jointly research driverless car technologies, with the goal of developing a semi-autonomous vehicle in three years.

On Tuesday, Baidu signed a joint research contract with BMW that will involve solving traffic challenges facing the Chinese market, the companies said in a statement.

The two firms hope to lay the groundwork for technologies that can lead to a fully autonomous car, and will first focus on developing high-resolution maps and building systems so that a car can drive itself in certain scenarios, a Baidu spokeswoman said.

The German carmaker has already developed some automated functions in its cars that can, for instance, parallel park the vehicle on its own or with the driver's assistance. Baidu's joint project with BMW also means the Chinese company will integrate more of its own data services into the German company's cars.

Prior to signing its research pact with BMW, Baidu revealed earlier this year that it was working on its own driverless car. The company is best known as China's largest search engine, but it has ambitions to use data analytics to create smarter hardware.

This month, the company unveiled its own wearable to rival Google Glass, Baidu Eye, that will allow for hands-free Internet searches. In addition, Baidu also showed a pair of smart chopsticks that can be used to check food quality.

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