Tech CEO’s self-driving car ride upsets Chinese traffic cops

photo credit: Baidu_ Inc/media

A top Chinese tech company’s demo of its self-driving car technology has drawn a lot of attention from police.

Baidu CEO Robin Li spoke to attendees at a conference in Beijing on Wednesday via live video link from inside a self-driving vehicle prototype as it drove around the city.

“The car is in autonomous driving mode, you can see the driver’s hands are completely off the wheel,” he told the audience from the passenger seat of a Lincoln sedan equipped with Baidu’s software.

Chinese authorities have warned companies against testing self-driving cars on public roads.

Traffic Management Bureau said in a statement Thursday Baidu’s road test “will be investigated and dealt with according to the law,” Beijing’s.

The agency said it supports “innovative driverless technology, however it should be carried out in accordance with the law, security and science.”

Baidu (BIDU, Tech30) declined to comment on the matter.

It’s unclear if the incident will result in any punishment for the company because China doesn’t yet have laws and regulations governing the use of self-driving vehicles.

Baidu has invested heavily in artificial intelligence, trying to position itself at the forefront of the so-called internet of things, which includes self-driving and connected vehicles.

At the Beijing conference on Wednesday, it announced plans to collaborate with more than 50 different partners, including major Chinese automakers, to “accelerate the adoption of autonomous driving.”

Major tech and auto companies including Uber, Google (GOOG), Tesla (TSLA), BMW, Daimler, and Ford (F) are also working feverishly to develop their own autonomous car technology.

Baidu’s goal is to have a small number of functional driverless cars on the roads by 2018. Mass production could begin as soon as 2021.

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