Reuters Staff: China's Baidu launches $1.5 billion autonomous driving fund

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese search engine Baidu Inc (BIDU.O) announced a 10 billion yuan ($1.52 billion) autonomous driving fund on Thursday as part of a wider plan to speed up its technical development and compete with U.S. rivals.

The “Apollo Fund” will invest in 100 autonomous driving projects over the next three years, Baidu said in a statement.

The fund’s launch coincides with the release of Apollo 1.5, the second generation of the company’s open-source autonomous vehicle software.

After years of internal development, Baidu in April decided to open its autonomous driving technology to third parties, a move it hopes will accelerate development and help it compete with U.S. firms Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) and Google project Waymo.

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