Ford expanding partnership with China's search provider Baidu

Automakers and technology companies collaborate amidst an uncertain future for car ownership.

China's largest search and internet-related service provider Baidu and auto giant, Ford, are setting up a strategic partnership in a number of transport-related areas.

These include:

  • in-vehicle infotainment development
  • transportation cloud computing
  • vehicle connectivity
  • artificial intelligence (AI) and
  • digital marketing
Both companies have their sights set on their Apollo self-driving car platform being the "Android" platform for autonomous vehicles. The mobility marketplace has already seen other automakers collaboration with technology companies, e.g. Alphabet's Waymo with Fiat Chrysler and Uber.
Although Baidu is unlikely to manufacture vehicles itself, there is speculation it may develop its own ride hailing service, with Ford likely to be the potential vehicle fleet provider.  Meanwhile, Ford will use its collaboration to utilise its Chinese partner's industry-leading conversational AI platform, Duer-OS, to develop advanced in car systems specifically for the Chinese market.
The drive for Ford to succeed in China is underlined by falling sales and the two companies have announced plans to explore targeted digital marketing initiatives.
The big question for automakers worldwide is whether personal vehicle ownership is likely to decline. In a recent poll carried out by The Engineer website,  54% of the 655 Engineer readers that took the poll believed there will be a shift to leasing and ride sharing, but it won’t be widespread.

On the question of ownership, one reader who leased a vehicle stated: “Currently owners use their car on average 1hr per day – it’s a waste of money and resources.”

Meanwhile a 2017 McKinsey survey found that in the US alone, 67% of all respondents preferred driving their own cars to using ride-hailing apps, while 63% are not interested in trading their vehicles for shared-mobility rides - even if they’re free!