The collaboration is aligned with Ford’s plans to further advance and promote autonomous vehicle technologies, supporting the company’s vision of designing “smart vehicles for a smart world”.

The Baidu-Ford L4 Autonomous Vehicle Test Project is a two-year initiative, with on-road testing slated to begin by the end of this year. The project will see Ford and Baidu cooperating to develop and test autonomous vehicles that are designed to meet the Level 4 (L4) driving automation standard as defined by SAE International.

This means that upon completion of the development and testing process, the vehicles will be capable of operating autonomously within a specific geographic area and under certain weather conditions.

In the lead-up to the kick-off, a team of Ford engineers at the company’s Nanjing Research and Engineering Center (REC) was set up to convert the vehicles into Autonomous Vehicle Platforms (AVPs) in order to prepare them to be fit with Baidu’s Apollo Virtual Driver System (VDS).

All vehicles have now been equipped with the Virtual Driver System (VDS) and related hardware and are ready for testing. The AV tests will be conducted on open roads in Beijing that are specially designated for AV testing, with the option of exploring further opportunities in other Chinese cities in the future in accordance with local regulations.