Baidu announces Apollo Enterprise, its new platform for mass-produced autonomous vehicles

Baidu made several big announcements about Apollo, its open-source autonomous vehicle technology platform, today at CES. The first is the launch of Apollo Enterprise for vehicles that will be put into mass production. The company claims that Apollo is already used by 130 partners around the world. One of its newest partners, Chinese electric vehicle […]

Baidu made several big announcements about Apollo, its open-source autonomous vehicle technology platform, today at CES. The first is the launch of Apollo Enterprise for vehicles that will be put into mass production. The company claims that Apollo is already used by 130 partners around the world. One of its newest partners, Chinese electric vehicle startup WM Motors, plans to deploy level 3 autonomous vehicles by 2021.

Apollo Enterprise’s main product lines will include solutions for highway autonomous driving; autonomous valet parking; fully autonomous mini-buses; an intelligent map data service platform; and DuerOS (Baidu’s voice assistant) for cars.

Baidu also released Apollo 3.5, the latest version of its platform, which now supports “complex urban and suburban driving environments.” Apollo 3.5 is already used by customers including Udelv, an autonomous delivery van startup that recently partnered with Walmart to test grocery deliveries. Baidu says up to 100 self-driving vehicles based on Apollo 3.5 will be deployed in the San Francisco Bay Area and other regions in the United States.

In China, Baidu plans to launch 100 robo-taxis that will cover 130 miles of city roads in Changsha, the capital city of Hunan province. The robo-taxis will use Baidu’s V2X (i.e. vehicle-to-everything) technology, to enable them to communicate with road infrastructure, like traffic lights.

China’s Baidu says its answer to Alexa is now on 200M devices

A Chinese voice assistant has been rapidly gaining ground in recent months. DuerOS, Baidu’s answer to Amazon’s Alexa, reached over 200 million devices, China’s top search engine announced on its Weibo official account last Friday. To put that number into context, more than 100 million devices pre-installed with Alexa have been sold, Amazon recently said. Google just […]

A Chinese voice assistant has been rapidly gaining ground in recent months. DuerOS, Baidu’s answer to Amazon’s Alexa, reached over 200 million devices, China’s top search engine announced on its Weibo official account last Friday.

To put that number into context, more than 100 million devices pre-installed with Alexa have been sold, Amazon recently said. Google just announced it expected Assitant to be on 1 billion devices by the end of this month.

Voice interaction technology is part of Baidu’s strategy to reposition itself from a heavy reliance on search businesses towards artificial intelligence. The grand plan took a hit when the world-renown scientist Lu Qi stepped down as Baidu’s chief operating officer, though the segment appears to have scored healthy growth lately, with DuerOS more than doubling from a base of 90 million installs since last June.

When it comes to how many devices actually use DuerOS regularly, the number is much less significant: 35 million machines a month at the time Baidu’s general manager for smart home devices announced the figure last November.

Like Alexa, which has made its way into both Amazon-built Echo speakers and OEMs, DuerOS also takes a platform play to power both Baidu-built and third-party devices.

Interestingly, DuerOS has achieved all that with fewer capabilities and a narrower partnership network than its American counterpart. By the end of 2018, Alexa could perform more than 56,000 skills. Devices from over 4,500 brands can now be controlled with Alexa, says Amazon. By comparison, Baidu’s voice assistant had 800 different skills, its chief architect Zhong Lei revealed at the company’s November event. It was compatible with 85 brands at the time.

This may well imply that DuerOS’s allies include heavy-hitters with outsize user bases. Baidu itself could be one as it owns one of China’s biggest navigation app, which is second to Alibaba’s AutoNavi in terms of number of installs, according to data from iResearch. Baidu said in October that at least 140 million people had activated the voice assistant of its Maps service.

Furthermore, Baidu speakers have managed to crack a previously duopolistic market. A report from Canalys shows that Baidu clocked in a skyrocketing 711 percent quarter-to-quarter growth to become China’s third-biggest vendor of smart speakers during Q3 last year. Top players Alibaba and Xiaomi, on the other hand, both had a sluggish season.

While Baidu deploys DuerOS to get home appliances talking, it has doubled down on smart vehicles with Apollo . The system, which the company calls the Android for autonomous driving, counted 130 OEMs, parts suppliers and other forms of partners as of last October. It’s attracted global automakers Volvo and Ford who want a foothold in China’s self-driving movement. Outside China, Apollo has looked to Microsoft Azure Cloud as it hunts for international partnerships.

Baidu has yet to prove commercial success for its young AI segment, but its conversational data trove holds potential for a lucrative future. Baidu became China’s top advertising business in part by harnessing what people search on its engine. Down the road, its AI-focused incarnation could apply the same data-crunching process to what people say to their machines.

Facebook’s GraphQL gets its own open source foundation

GraphQL, the Facebook -incubated data query language, is moving into its own open source foundation. Like so many other similar open source foundation, the aptly named GraphQL Foundation will be hosted by the Linux Foundation. Facebook announced GraphQL back in 2012 and open sourced it in 2015. Today, it’s being used by companies that range […]

GraphQL, the Facebook -incubated data query language, is moving into its own open source foundation. Like so many other similar open source foundation, the aptly named GraphQL Foundation will be hosted by the Linux Foundation.

Facebook announced GraphQL back in 2012 and open sourced it in 2015. Today, it’s being used by companies that range from Airbnb to Audi, Github, Nextifx, Shopify, Twitter and the New York Times. At Facebook itself, the GraphQL API powers billions of API calls every day. At its core, GraphQL is basically a language for querying databases from client-side applications and a set of specifications for how the API on the backend should present this data to the client. It presents an alternative to REST-based APIs and promises to offer developers more flexibility and the ability to write faster and more secure applications. Virtually every major programming language now supports it through a variety of libraries.

“GraphQL has redefined how developers work with APIs and client-server interactions. We look forward to working with the GraphQL community to become an independent foundation, draft their governance and continue to foster the growth and adoption of GraphQL,” said Chris Aniszczyk, Vice President of Developer Relations at the Linux Foundation.

As Aniszczyk noted, the new foundation will have an open governance model, similar to that of other Linux Foundation projects. The exact details are still a work in progress, though. For now, the list of founding members is also still in flux, but for now, it includes Airbnb, Apollo, Coursera, Elementl, Facebook, GitHub, Hasura, Prisma, Shopify and Twitter.

“We are thrilled to welcome the GraphQL Foundation into the Linux Foundation,” said Jim Zemlin, the Executive Director of the Linux Foundation. “This advancement is important because it allows for long-term support and accelerated growth of this essential and groundbreaking technology that is changing the approach to API design for cloud-connected applications in any language.”

For now, the founding members expect that the GraphQL specificationGraphQL.js reference implementation, DataLoader library, and GraphiQL developer tool will become the core technical projects of the foundation, but that, too, could still change.

At this point, the Linux Foundation is essentially a foundation for foundations. It provides support dozens of projects now, with Linux itself being just one of those. Those other foundations include the likes of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (the home of Kubernetes), the Cloud Foundry Foundation, Automotive Grade Linux, the JS Foundation (which is about to merge with the Node.js Foundation) and more.

As more large companies release open source projects, those projects that become popular often get to the point where having a single company govern the project’s life cycle is neither feasible nor in the best interest of the community. Spinnaker, the continuous delivery platform backed by Netflix and Google, recently reached this point, for example. Surely, GraphQL is also now at this point where it’s stable and has wide adoption but could benefit from being separated from the mothership and get its own vendor-neutral foundation.

Baidu hits the gas on autonomous vehicles with Volvo and Ford deals

China’s search engine giant Baidu is continuing its partnership spree for Apollo, its open development platform for autonomous driving, after it inked a deal with Swedish automaker Volvo to develop level four self-driving passenger cars. “Autonomous driving has been our dream, but it’s coming true,” said Li Zhenyu, vice president and general manager of Baidu’s […]

China’s search engine giant Baidu is continuing its partnership spree for Apollo, its open development platform for autonomous driving, after it inked a deal with Swedish automaker Volvo to develop level four self-driving passenger cars.

“Autonomous driving has been our dream, but it’s coming true,” said Li Zhenyu, vice president and general manager of Baidu’s intelligent driving group, at the company’s annual conference today. Level four means the vehicles can drive on pre-mapped roads with little or no human intervention.

The agreement came a day after Baidu and Ford forged an agreement to test self-driving vehicles on Chinese roads for two years. The American car giant’s self-driving system has already been fitted into Apollo, according to the duo’s joint statement.

baidu autonomous car

The Baidu-Red Flag autonomous passenger car

Baidu and Volvo, which is owned by China’s Geely, said they plan to mass produce the vehicles for the Chinese market, although there is no timeline for the promise. The deal marks Volvo’s first partnership to jointly develop autonomous vehicles in China. This is also the first time for Baidu to work with a non-Chinese automaker to mass produce level four passenger cars.

Over the past few months, Baidu has signed a number of Chinese carmakers including BAIC and Red Flag onto Apollo amid a global race to mass produce autonomous vehicles. As of July, the Apollo ecosystem counted 116 partners, up from 50 a year ago.

Baidu previously said its first batch of level four autonomous driving vehicles through the BAIC deal would be ready by 2021. Its level four minibuses with Xiamen King Long are already running in over ten locations throughout China, Baidu’s CEO Robin Li said during its Q3 earnings call on Tuesday.

Baidu has also been expanding its Apollo network by linking up with the government. On Tuesday, it announced a collaboration with the Chinese city of Changsha, which has over seven million residents, to apply self-driving solutions to the city’s roads. Baidu is also in talks with Beijing and Shanghai for a similar tie-up.

Sales engagement startup Apollo says its massive contacts database was stolen in a data breach

Apollo, a sales engagement startup boasting a database of more than 200 million contact records, has been hacked. The YC Combinator-backed company, formerly known as ZenProspect, helps salespeople connect with prospective customers. Using its massive prospect database of 200 million contacts at 10 million companies, Apollo matches sellers with potential buyers. Apollo said that the […]

Apollo, a sales engagement startup boasting a database of more than 200 million contact records, has been hacked.

The YC Combinator-backed company, formerly known as ZenProspect, helps salespeople connect with prospective customers. Using its massive prospect database of 200 million contacts at 10 million companies, Apollo matches sellers with potential buyers.

Apollo said that the bulk of the stolen data was from its prospect database.

Bjoern Zinssmeister, co-founder of Templarbit, which posts details of data breaches on its Breachroom page, obtained a copy of the email sent to affected customers and forwarded it to TechCrunch.

The email said that company said the breach was discovered weeks after system upgrades in July.

“We have confirmed that the majority of exposed information came from our publicly gathered prospect database, which could include name, email address, company names, and other business contact information,” said the email to customers. “Some client-imported data was also accessed without authorization,” the company said, but did not say what kind of data that included.

Apollo’s database contains publicly available data, including names, job titles, employers, social media handles, phone numbers and email addresses. It doesn’t include Social Security numbers, financial data or email addresses and passwords, Apollo said.

Although the company’s chief executive Tim Zheng said that the company had contacted customers in line with its “values of transparency,” Zheng declined to answer TechCrunch’s questions — including what data was taken and how many customers were affected.

“The investigation is still ongoing,” said Zheng in an email. He added that the “only statement that we’re making to press at this time is the customer communication” sent to affected users.

Zheng also refused to say if the company has informed state authorities of the breach. A spokesperson for the California attorney general did not immediately comment on whether Apollo has notified the state about the breach.

Apollo may also face action from European authorities under GDPR.

The data breach may not pose an immediate security risk to users such as if usernames and passwords are stolen, but exposed contact information can have a long-term effect on user security, such as making it easier for attackers to send targeted phishing emails.

Even if the stolen data isn’t considered that sensitive, the breach adds to a growing pile of companies hoarding vast amounts of data but failing to keep it safe.