China’s search giant Baidu spent almost $2 billion on R&D of AI technologies last year.
“Over the past seven or eight years, Baidu was spending every year around 15% of its annual revenue on R&D of AI technologies,” said Robin Li, founder and CEO of Baidu today at Baidu Create 2018, the company’s annual AI developer conference.
Baidu generated a total revenue of $13.03 billion in the fiscal year 2017, representing a 20% increase from 2016.
Putting AI at the core of its services, the AI-first company now operates DuerOS Open Platform, a conversation-based AI platform, as well as Apollo, a software platform for Baidu partners to develop their bespoke autonomous driving systems.
Believing in a driverless future, Baidu has started the mass production of its driverless mini bus Apolong and plans to launch the autonomous bus services in several Chinese cities including Beijing and Shenzhen, announced Robin Li today.
In 2017, Baidu refined its focus and trimmed unprofitable businesses such as food delivery unit Baidu Waimai and sold O2O platform Nuomi to video streaming spinoff iQiyi.
Baidu COO LU Qi, who steers the company’s AI direction and strategy, stepped down in May, leaving the company’s AI strategy in doubt. LU’s departure was preceded by the exodus of Andrew Ng, one of the world’s most prominent AI expert, from his position of Baidu Chief Scientist.
Editor: Ben Jiang