American tech giant Microsoft has joined forces with China's Chinese Internet search giant Baidu to power the latter's open source self-driving project outside its home country. With this, Microsoft's Azure cloud infrastructure adds another bullet to the growing list of resources connected to one of Baidu's most awaited projects.

The Chinese company, which occupies 60th rank on Forbes World's Most Innovative Companies List 2017, first announced about its open source autonomous driving project, Apollo, in April this year. Named by the company after the historic lunar landing program, it is an open platform that provides open software stack, cloud infrastructure, and other services that are able to support major features and functions of an autonomous car.

For its dream project, Beijing-headquartered Baidu has already locked in deals with some of the biggest names in the Chinese automobile industry like Chery Auto and Great Wall Motors, along with famous Asian ride-sharing service Grab, global navigation and mapping service provider TomTom, suppliers Continental and Bosch as well as Intel and Ford.

Companies who make use of Baidu's Apollo platform for their self-driving vehicle projects will now be able to employ Microsoft's Azure cloud services to securely scale their cars outside China.

Commenting on Microsoft's deal with Baidu, Microsoft's corporate vice president, Kevin Dallas said that his company believes that today's vehicles already have an impressive level of sophistication when it comes to their ability to capture data. Hence, by applying Microsoft's global cloud AI, machine learning, and deep neural network capabilities to that data, the company can significantly accelerate the work already being done to make autonomous vehicles safer.

The autonomous vehicle space has been witnessing a lot of activity off late. In a 2016 report, consulting firm McKinsey & Company predicted that up to 15 per cent of new cars sold in the year 2030 could potentially be fully autonomous. A number of prominent tech companies are currently already working on their own autonomous vehicles project. Alphabet's Waymo is currently said to be leading the race which has strong contenders like Tesla, Nissan and Ford.

While autonomous vehicle space is heating up like never before, Microsoft is sure that it does not want to dip its toe in the water, at least not anytime soon. For now, it only wants to stick to the software and services part of the deal.

Baidu, which is famously called as the “Google of China” aims to get its self-driving software on the roads by 2018. Instead of going the commercial self-driving vehicles route, Baidu is working on launching a shuttle service in Chinese cities by next year.

[Top Image: Neowin]

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