$BIDU/Jidu: $30k Robo1 Car from the Future

Wired Headline: China’s Jidu Robo-1 Looks Like It’s From the Future. Maybe It Is

Subheadline: Internet giant Baidu has built an empire around search and artificial intelligence. Can it build a smarter car?


BAIDU HAS A Google-like grip on China’s internet industry, bringing in billions each year through search advertising, cloud computing, and other online services. But its ambitions extend even further than Alphabet’s—and include shaking up the car industry.

Today in Beijing, Jidu, an automotive company recently created by Baidu and the Chinese automaker Geely, unveiled a prototype of its first vehicle, a futuristic-looking, largely autonomous hatchback called Robo-1. The company says it will cost at least the equivalent of $30,000, and is expected to go on sale next year.

The Robo-1 is sleek and angular, with doors that swing upwards at the front and open backwards at the rear. A spare interior includes racing-style seats, a yoke steering wheel, and a widescreen display that covers the entire dash. The vehicle is festooned with sensors, including a lidar, for mapping the road ahead in 3D, that pops up from the hood when activated. Jidu says the final model of the Robo-1 will be 90 percent the same as the one shown off in Beijing, but it does not specify what elements could change.



Baidu hopes to ride an industry-wide shift to electric batteries and electric powertrains. This January Jidu announced that it had received $400 million in series A funding from Baidu and Geely, on top of a previous investment of $300 million. Geely has a successful track record of manufacturing electric cars with Polestar, a subsidiary of Volvo, as well as several Chinese brands.