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BMW, Baidu end joint project on self-driving cars

BMW Group and Chinese Internet giant Baidu will end their joint research on self-driving cars, executives for the two companies said, with Baidu now searching for new global research partners.

Wang Jing, Baidu's chief of autonomous car development, told Reuters the company has added Lincoln vehicles to its U.S. test fleet. He declined to elaborate. 

"I'm open for any partners, actually I'm talking to many," Wang said, speaking Friday on the sidelines of China's third World Internet Conference in the eastern Chinese city of Wuzhen. 

The two companies decided to end the venture, which was testing vehicles in the U.S. and China, because they held different opinions on how to proceed with research, BMW's China CEO Olaf Kastner told Reuters at the Guangzhou auto show. 

"We now have found that the development pace and the ideas of the two companies are a little different," Kastner said, without specifying the exact point of disagreement. 

At the conference in Wuzhen, Baidu offered test drives of various autonomous driving prototypes developed separately with Chinese automakers Chery Automobile Co., BYD Co. and Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Corp.

The test cars drove on a closed road, automatically avoiding a bicycle and overtaking cars moving at various speeds. 

BMW's Kastner said the two companies decided to part ways after jointly developing the automatic overtaking capability, seeing it as a key milestone for the technology. 

The German automaker plans to expand its r&d team for autonomous drive in China, Kastner said. 

The two companies will continue to jointly develop high-definition maps, which are vital to the navigation of autonomous cars, he added. 

Baidu aims to commercialize autonomous cars on a small scale by 2018, with wider deployment by 2021. BMW has similarly targeted highly or fully autonomous cars by 2021.

Last month, China issued its roadmap for the development of self-driving cars that can drive in most situations between 2021 and 2025, with nearly every car having some self-driving capability by 2030. 

That roadmap did not back a single technology for self-driving cars to communicate with each other, leaving open the possibility it could back a different standard from Europe or the United States.