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We wonder if the huge Chinese company Baidu should stick to its artificial intelligence work and chip manufacturing. That’s because along with its unveiling of a second-generation AI chip and other significant tech development it debuted a “robocar.” And the Robocar looks uglier than an Aztek or Edsel.

No matter how smart or safe the Robocar may be it is too hard to look at. Does it look like a forklift and airport tug had a baby? Or is it just us who see that? 

Baidu’s Robocar is part of its massive autonomous vehicle development

Baidu Robocar
Baidu Co-founder and CEO Robin Li and CCTV host Beining Sa sit in Robocar | Baidu

The Baidu company is doing some great things. At its Baidu World conference, it introduced its new Kunlun2 chip. Developed from its 2018 Kunlun chip it can process large clumps of data. One of its main uses is for autonomous vehicles. 

Baidu has been testing and continuing autonomous vehicle development with robotaxis in active service within numerous cities in China. It wants to expand that business for mass usage before 2023. Whether the Robocar is intended for mass-market usage is not known.

But Wei Dong, VP of the company’s intelligent driving group, told CNBC, “We believe that cars of the future will be robocars.” Baidu co-founder and chief executive Robin Li says, “They will drive autonomously, act as both an intelligent assistant and loyal companion, and be self-learning.”

If the Robocar is only a service vehicle, can it be ugly?

Baidu robocar interior
Interior of Baidu’s robocar | Baidu

Ambitious for sure. As a service vehicle, however, it should look compelling rather than offputting. And if the intention is to sell the Robocars to consumers, it must be attractive. 

So the ideas and technology behind the Robocar are exciting. Beyond that? Not so much. We like the gullwing doors. And inside there is neither a steering wheel nor pedals. If it were on tracks we’d just call it a train.

The Robocar can also recognize voices and facial features. It can scan its environment and calculate actions ahead of implementing any of them. If you’re in Beijing or Guangzhou you’ve no doubt seen one of Baidu’s autonomous taxis. 


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