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Jidu Auto - From a Search Engine to a Self-Driving Vehicle


Technology spins the world around, and it is the great minds, such as Robin Li Yanhong, that keep on pushing this world to technological advances unimaginable for us just 20 years ago.

This story starts like any other, with an ambitious young boy from a humble family growing up to attain a university diploma and fulfill the duties of ordinary life. But this modest story ends up following a totally different direction. What is truly amazing about Li Yanhong, apart from his endeavors to success, is being the mastermind behind Jidu Auto - the company that manufactured the first robotic car in the world.

It is not the first time that we have heard about great technological inventions from the far east, but this autonomous vehicle is surely one that will shift the route of human history - carbon foot-free, electric car with the ability to drive itself around using its own software.

An interesting course of events throughout history led to incredible inventions that are now an inseparable part of our lives. In the near future, Jidu Auto will be one of them.

And this is its story.

From the Far East to Wall Street

It was in Yangquan, China, that Li spent his childhood, as an only boy in a family of two factory workers, along with 4 siblings. He started his bachelor's at Peking University and obtained a diploma in Information Management. After completing his bachelor's, he moved to the USA to continue his studies at the University of Buffalo.

Little did he know that his USA migration would bring him much more than just a master’s degree. Getting his diploma in 1994, he started working with IDD information services, where he contributed to creating software for publishing the online edition of The Wall Street Journal whilst working on improving algorithms for search engines.

The creation of Rankdex, the first search engine using hyperlinks to measure the indexing website quality, indeed set the start of Li’s upcoming career. This achievement would be awarded a U.S. patent, predating the engine that Google started using exactly two years after the discovery.

Not much after that, this same algorithm would be used for creating Baidu, China’s most frequently used search engine, with Li as a co-founder and CEO of the company. It wouldn’t take long before Li’s triumphs became public on Wall Street and Baidu started expanding immensely. These steps would set a stable base for the upcoming creation of Jidu Auto.

On the Stairways to Success

Pulling its origins from the creation of Rankdex, Baidu was founded in 2000, with the initiation of Robin Li and his partner Eric Xu. Even if it seems that we are just starting to learn about artificial intelligence, its roots date back to the 2000s, as AI was the core of Baidu.

Shortly after its launch, Baidu started allowing advertising companies to bid for the ad space on their website and then pay according to the number of clicks they get. This system also predates the algorithm that Google sets its ad agenda upon. The picture section will come to existence on Baidu just two years later, together with the article identification and generalization. And it will be only uphill from this moment on for Baidu.

In the following years, not only would Baidu start improving its search engine, but also it would rank higher on the list of the most used search engines worldwide. Besides, it would start spreading around the world with offices in several countries, colliding with different companies to always deliver the best result.

Apollo Project and the Birth of Jidu Auto

The moment when the fundamental change in paths happened for Baidu was creating its Apollo project or Apolong. To contribute to developing autonomous cars, the Apolong was created as a self-driving vehicle platform.

Established in 2017, it was brought to enhance the capabilities of AI in vehicles, allowing them to have their own working software and enabling the passengers to be engaged in the driving process. Colliding with the electric vehicle manufacturer Geely, the dream of a self-driving car would just start to become concrete.

The Apolong, or the Baidu Apollo Project, had started with small acts but made a considerable number of partners in a short span of a few years. It began as an initiative to integrate unmanned vehicles into our regular lives.

The first project that Apolong started was the self-driving buses, with this idea dating back to before the foundation of Apolong. Having been developed in the Baidu institute of technology, buses were put to test drives to see whether this invention would be a successful one. The testing came to a satisfying result, with the buses carrying up to 14 people, driving with a speed of 20 to 40 km/h and having a high sensitivity to movements occurring around the vehicle. Essentially, contracts with buyers were signed, and the buses started being put into use.

It wasn’t very long after that Robin Li decided to push Baidu into an even more serious attempt and start planning a new electric vehicle that would exceed everyone’s expectations.

Jidu Auto was officially founded in March 2021, but the idea behind what the company would manufacture started to be openly talked about a little bit later than that. “Jidu” stands for “integrating Baidu’s AI capabilities”, and they do mean to keep up to their title. Introducing the first robot car, the two giants of China’s market have successfully accomplished another, for many unimaginable, mission of theirs.

The Finances and Future of Jidu Auto

Being the child of two giants, Judi Auto has a bright future awaiting. The most used search engine in China - Baidu, and the electric car manufacturing giant - Geely are up to reaching new heights.

The company has had two funding rounds, the first on the 1st of March as the company established its foundations. Raising 3 million dollars in the first, the second round occurred on the 26th of January this year, as the concrete plan was set and the project was ready to launch. It had raised 400 million dollars.

The company's parents are the only two investors fueling this idea to bring it to its full potential. Their plan is to manufacture a new car every 1 to 1.5 years, and they are expected to funnel 50 million yuan more into this business.

Jidu will start to accept orders for the first robot car by the end of the first half of this year, and they even announced that by the end of 2022, the second self-driving robotic car would be put on the market.

The futuristic car is fully self-functioning, empowered with the latest AI driving capabilities and fully equipped with Baidu and Geely’s latest technological gadgets.

What Does the Future Behold?

"Like others want to popularize electric vehicles, we hope to make unmanned Driving technology is popular." - says the CEO of Jidu Auto, Xia Yiping, when asked about how Jidu would differentiate itself in the electric car business. The market started getting quite competitive since giants started joining electric vehicle manufacturing. Thereupon, every day, we wake up to more innovative and creative ideas awaiting us to use.

There is no doubt that AI will start to merge itself into our daily habits. We couldn't imagine that technology would advance so much in such a short span of time. Companies, such as Jidu Auto, are conducting our future, and we have just a slight control over it. But having robotic, self-driving, electric cars parked in our garage? I think we are in for quite a ride.