Baidu is considered China’s Google thanks to the many similarities between the two companies, and just like the American version, the one from the People’s Republic has automotive ambitions too. But unlike Google, which funds the driverless ride hailing service Waymo in order to gain insight into autonomous vehicles, Baidu wants to build and sell cars, albeit not under its own name, but a new brand specifically created for the purpose.

This new brand is called Jidu and we got a sneak peek at its style and philosophy when it was announced a few months back, but now we finally see its first production vehicle, the Robo-01. Well, almost a production vehicle, since Jidu says it is about 90 percent representative of the finished product, so this is basically the vehicle that will enter production in 2023.

Jidu refers to its first vehicle as a “robocar,” hinting that it can operate without driver supervision - they say it is “trainable” so it also improves through use by employing another proprietary solution, what they call a neural JET (short for Jidu Evolving Technology). Apparently, the vehicle will also be able to show emotions as it interacts with its occupants.

Gallery: Jidu Robo-1

Xia Yiping, CEO of Jidu, said

The Intelligent Car 3.0 Era is the era of robocars. The transition to this new era is marked by the shift of driving power from humans to AI, with robocars ultimately achieving self-generating progress led by AI. 

The JIDU robocar aims to meet users' needs for intelligent travel, in-car intelligent assistance and intelligent cabin in the new era.

In terms of the way it looks, the Robo-01 is quite futuristic, but it’s not especially strange looking, straddling the line between crossovers and hatchbacks for body style. The vehicle they showed had no B-pillar, and we presume that this along with regular not rear-hinged doors will be the among the changes made for production.

Inside, a massive widescreen display that goes all the way across the dash dominates the view. The vehicle features a retractable half-steering wheel (not really a yoke in this case) that gives an unobstructed view of the screen, although even having a normal steering wheel would not have been an issue given how much screen real estate it has.

Lidar is present on this vehicle, just like it is on many Chinese EVs, allowing it to get a good 3D view of the road ahead, but it only pops up when needed, otherwise staying hidden under flaps in the hood. It also has rader, 12 ultrasonic sensors and 12 cameras to allow it to navigate around its environment.

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