JIDU, Baidu’s Smart Car Unit, to Apply $400M Series A Toward Mass Production

JIDU plans to hire engineers and exhibit its Robocar concept car at the Beijing Auto Show.


The Robocar concept smart vehicle.

The global automotive industry is retooling for electric and increasingly autonomous vehicles. JIDU, the intelligent vehicle division of Baidu Inc., last week announced that it had closed a Series A round of almost $400 million (U.S.). The Beijing-based company plans to use the financing to continue research and development of its Robocar concept with the goal of launching a mass-produced model in 2023.

Founded in March 2021, JIDU has been developing autonomous driving and human-machine interaction technology. Founded in 2000, Baidu is a leading artificial intelligence company, and its Apollo unit has been developing an autonomous minibus, advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), and robotic taxicabs. The Apollo Go robotaxi service received permission to operate in Beijing in November 2021.

“It has only been 10 months since JIDU started its journey,” said Yiping Xia, CEO of JIDU. “With the support of cutting-edge AI technology combined with a high-quality vehicle platform and manufacturing process, JIDU's efficient development of automotive robot has been proven – the brain, nerve system, and body of the Robocar are all under rapid development. When the product is delivered, it will be a benchmark-level product.”

JIDU focuses on the user experience

A year ago, Baidu announced its intention to enter the automotive industry. It established JIDU with $300 million in start-up capital. The company said its innovative product-development process enabled it to develop its first model faster than the industry average.

“As an important strategic initiative by Baidu in the field of intelligent mobility, JIDU is committed to creating a revolutionary Robocar that combines both intelligence and emotion, leading to a profound change in transportation,” said the company.

“I would like to express my special thanks to the entire team who accompanied this project from the scratch,” added Xia. “We will continue to focus on product development and build our business network to quickly move forward. Our goal, as always, is to provide users with more revolutionary products that exceed expectations.”

Baidu, Geely finance talent growth

Baidu and its strategic partner, multinational auto manufacturer Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, backed JIDU's Series A round. JIDU said it will use the funding to hire talent, especially in fields including advanced autonomous driving, smart cockpit, and smart manufacturing. The company also plans to build up marketing and user support operations.

The global market for autonomous vehicles could expand from 6,100 units in 2020 to 110,100 units by 2026, experiencing a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 60.6%, according to Research and Markets. It added that the U.S. currently has 3,400 units and that China could reach 17,300 units by 2026.

In November, Baidu rival Apple Inc. reportedly increased its own autonomous vehicle efforts, appointing Apple Watch software executive Kevin Lynch to lead Project Titan.

JIDU plans to show its Robocar concept vehicle at the Beijing Auto Show in April. The company claimed that by 2023, its mass-produced electric model will provide an “outstanding user experience and cost-effectiveness, setting an industry benchmark for smart cars.”

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The Robocar concept smart vehicle.

Robot Technologies