China’s search engine giant Baidu may face sanctions from local authorities after its chairman and chief executive, Robin Li 李彦宏, live-streamed himself driving an autonomous vehicle, apparently on public roads in Beijing, Reuters reports. At Baidu’s first AI developer conference on July 5, the company’s CEO made a video call while sitting in the driver’s seat of a car — without his hands touching the wheel. As the driverless vehicle cruised down a busy Beijing highway, Li explained that the car was on autopilot and remarked on the smooth ride despite the capital’s notorious traffic.
Footage of Li’s stunt went viral instantly on the Chinese internet after the conference. While some internet users were impressed by Baidu’s latest bid in showing its willingness to push cutting-edge technology, Beijing traffic police were less amused, and published this announcement (in Chinese) to their Weibo account:
Notice of situation
We are seriously looking at media reports about “Baidu autonomous cars driving on the roads,” and are investigating and establishing the facts.
The police traffic department supports innovation in self-driving cars, but it must be done according to the law, safely, and scientifically. The police traffic department will investigate and punish those who break the “Road Safety Law of the People’s Republic of China.”
If you’re interested in Baidu’s autonomous driving technology, read “the self-driving project that could help China leapfrog the West” on MIT Technology Review.
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