Baidu Inc. And Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, Aims To Spend 50 Billion Yuan Over Next Five Years On Developing Smart-Vehicle Technologies.

Jidu Auto (集度汽車), A Joint Venture Of Chinese Technology Giants Baidu Inc (百度) And Zhejiang Geely Holding Group (吉利控股), Aims To Spend 50 Billion Yuan (US$7.7 Billion) Over The Next Five Years On Developing Smart-Vehicle Technologies. Over the next two to three years, the joint venture aims to hire 2,500 to 3,000 staff for the project, including about 500 software engineers, it said.

The branding for the nascent auto marque is set to be unveiled in the third quarter of this year, a Jidu spokesperson added. Baidu owns 55 percent of Jidu and Geely has a 45 percent stake in the company. Jidu would launch its first electric vehicle (EV) within three years, Jidu chief executive officer Xia Yiping (夏一平) said in an interview with Reuters, adding that the vehicle would look like a robot, as this would appeal to a young clientele.

The company plans to release one new model every year or 18 months, he said. Investment in EVs has been steeply increasing in China, where Xiaomi Corp (小米) last month announced an ambitious US$10 billion plan to enter the fray, even though its expertise lies more in everyday consumer items like smartphones and rice cookers.

For its part, Baidu has been investing in self-driving technology for years, and its January announcement of the collaboration with Geely gave its share price a jolt. This year alone, Geely has forged major collaboration agreements with companies from Baidu to Apple Inc’s Taiwanese manufacturing partner Hon Hai Precision Industry Co (鴻海精密), Tencent Holdings Ltd (騰訊) and EV start-up Faraday Future (法拉第未來).

Geely last month announced plans for a new EV brand called Zeekr as it seeks to become more competitive in a segment of the market dominated by Tesla Inc. Separately, Hon Hai chief technology officer William Wei (魏國章) said that 1,500 hardware and software companies from around the world have joined the firm’s MIH Open Platform to facilitate the development of EV technologies such as self-driving and fleet management.

Hon Hai is developing four critical EV components: batteries, electrical systems, electronic control and various software items, it said. In June, the company is to unveil a joint EV battery development project and announce a client list for two EVs early next year, Hon Hai said.

This news was originally published at Taipei Times.