On January 11, 2021, Chinese internet platform and AI company Baidu Inc. and auto manufacturer Zhejiang Geely Holding Group announced their alliance to manufacture intelligent electric vehicles, making use of Baidu's autonomous driving technology and Geely's expertise in automobile design and manufacturing.
In view of the already ultra-competitive market of new energy vehicle (NEV), the alliance is facing both opportunities and challenges. On the one hand, Baidu and Geely, showering in the a raft of trending industry-friendly policies, have been innovating on the "brain" and "trunk" of NEVs separately for many years and stocked rich patent resources. On the other hand, both of them are under the pressure from frontrunners such as Tesla, Nio and Xpeng, and have to figure out how to muscle their way out of the fierce competition.
Industry insiders advise that further strengthening innovation is the key to survive the competition. In order to keep up with the NEV's robust development, the new company formed by Baidu and Geely should take root in intelligent network, intensify research and development of core technology in power system and intelligent connectivity, and strengthen patent portfolio planning.
Since 2013, Baidu has been deeply engaged in technological innovation including autonomous driving, intelligent cockpits and Internet of vehicles. In 2017, Baidu released the autonomous driving software platform "Apollo" which offers autonomous driving, smart transportation and intelligent vehicle solution under one roof, with a goad to help partners quickly build their own autonomous driving system. As of now, Apollo has grown into the world's biggest open platform for autonomous driving.
Baidu announced that partnering with Geely is not only the best practice of its artificial intelligence technology, but also a crucial strategic layout in the field of intelligent transportation. Baidu will boosts its rapid growth with everything in its arsenal including AI, Apollo autonomous driving, DuerOS and Baidu Maps.
This cooperation will be based on Geely's latest global leading pure electric architecture-SEA (Sustainable Experience Architecture), which equips vehicles with autonomous driving functions including autonomous parking and automatic navigation, Geely introduced in its official announcement.
Gathering of patents which backs up technological innovation is the hardcore power facilitating the marriage. Baidu ranked first in the number of AI granted patents in China with 2,682, according to the 2020 China Artificial Intelligence Patent Technology Analysis Report released in November 2020 by Cyber Emergency Response Team, China Industrial Control Systems and Electronic Intellectual Property Center under the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. Geely has been committed to building a world-leading new energy R&D and manufacturing system with more than 30 billion yuan investments and more than 300 core NEV patents .
"Cooperation between the two parties can be described as a strong alliance, which will help to leverage Baidu's technological power in AI and other fields and Geely's power in traditional manufacturing. The alliance will enable the two parties to execute all-round cooperation in the fields of technology and capital, and promote the industrialization of intelligent connectivity technology," Wang Junlei said, deputy secretary-general of the Intellectual Property Branch under China Society of Automotive Engineers.
In Wang Junlei's view, Baidu and Geely's cooperation will help them make use of their strength and complement each other's weakness. However, if the joint venture wants a piece of the NEV industry, it needs to further strengthen technological innovation and patent portfolio planning.
"Intelligent connectivity is the future focus of NEV companies. Baidu and Geely should build an automotive ecosystem with intelligent connectivity as its core and jointly overcome the technical bottlenecks as well as the supply problems of power systems including motors and batteries," Wang Junlei suggested.