BEIJING -- Robert Bosch, Continental and TomTom are among more than 50 partners enlisted by Google rival Baidu Inc. for its Apollo driverless car project. The Chinese search engine giant is signing up major players to aid in its foray into the sector.
The program aims to open up part of Baidu's autonomous car software in the same way that Google released its Android operating system for smartphones. By encouraging more companies to build products using them, Baidu hopes to fine-tune its nascent systems and overtake rival research efforts by the likes of Google parent Alphabet Inc.'s Waymo.
Baidu listed four Chinese carmakers, suppliers Bosch and Continental and technology companies including Microsoft as part of the Apollo alliance.
Southeast Asian ride-hailing giant Grab and mapping systems company TomTom are also joining the program, which aims to get fully autonomous vehicles on city streets as early as in 2018, with mass production to begin by 2021.
Widely considered the Google of China, Baidu is hoping research into artificial intelligence will create a new generation of products to help revive revenue growth.
Some analysts believe Baidu's technology still lags that of competitors such as Waymo. At a Baidu conference Wednesday, developers showed off the Chinese search provider's personal assistant, DuerOS.
The raft of Apollo agreements unveiled Wednesday at Baidu Create cover virtually every automotive field. Dutch company TomTom said in a statement it will help Baidu with high-definition mapping in the U.S. and western Europe.
Several of Apollo's members already have separate cooperation agreements in place with Waymo and other driverless car providers.
"As we and our partners contribute to the platform in our areas of specialty, we all gain more, with the results far greater than just our own," Baidu group president Qi Lu said in a statement.