Want a driverless car for your wedding? Work for Baidu
Hiring a limo for your wedding? That’s so 2017.
If you’re like three engineers who got married this week at Baidu’s Beijing headquarters, the proper choice for a true 21st century wedding is... a fleet of self-driving vehicles.
The newlyweds were driven around the campus on their wedding day by one of Baidu’s Apollo self-driving buses, trailed by other driverless cars. When they arrived at the front entrance, they were greeted by Baidu president Zhang Ya-Qin, who officiated their group wedding.
According to Baidu’s WeChat post, all three grooms work for the company’s autonomous driving project, Apollo. True to their profession, the wedding took place on Programmers’ Day, celebrated in China on October 24th each year (because 1024 = 210).
Baidu is largely considered a pioneer in autonomous vehicles in China, although it’s a relative latecomer compared to rivals in the West. In May, figures from California’s DMV showed that Baidu’s autonomous cars required more human intervention than those of Google’s self-driving spinoff Waymo.
Baidu’s self-driving buses are currently being deployed in confined areas including a park in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where they are restricted to a maximum speed of around 9 miles per hour. A human driver is also on standby to take over in case of emergency.
CEO Robin Li has said there are plans to introduce these buses to more Chinese cities, as well as Tokyo.
The Chinese government has high hopes for Baidu, having appointed the company to lead the nation’s push on autonomous driving technology. As part of the initiative, central planners have declared smart cars a national priority and issued nationwide guidelines for driverless vehicles, according to the China Internet Report 2018.
By 2025, China expects at least 10% of all vehicles to be “highly autonomous”, and fully autonomous by 2030. But experts have expressed doubts. A McKinsey study this year showed that more than a third of those surveyed believe safety issues won’t be solved before 2030.