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Baidu, King Long begin mass output of China's first fully autonomous vehicle

Chinese tech giant Baidu Inc. started mass production of its first fully autonomous vehicle, in partnership with domestic bus maker King Long United Automotive Industry Co.

The driverless vehicle, the Apolong, is a 4.3-meter-long (14.1-foot-long), eight-seat minibus.

At its annual conference on artificial intelligence held in Beijing Wednesday, Baidu broadcast live as the 100th Apolong rolled off a production line at a King Long plant in Xiamen, a port city in east China’s Fujian province.

The minibus, fitted with the latest version of Baidu’s open-source autonomous driving platform called Apollo, features Level 4 autonomous driving, Baidu said. At Level 4, a vehicle can navigate itself on highways and local roads.

In addition to China, the Apolong will be used in Tokyo as commuter buses in local nuclear stations and senior living communities, according to Baidu.

Based in Beijing and listed on the Nasdaq, Baidu is China’s largest Internet search engine. In the past few years, it has deployed artificial intelligence to develop autonomous driving vehicles for automakers and suppliers operating in China through the Apollo platform.

Apollo is a software package that lets automakers use its entire suite or specific features for autonomous vehicles. Automakers also can integrate their own technology with it.

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