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Baidu opens self-driving car R&D center in Silicon Valley, hires Tesla Autopilot engineer


Baidu, China’s most popular search engine, like its US-based counterpart Google, is heavily investing in autonomous driving technologies and today it officially announced the launch of a self-driving car R&D center in Silicon Valley, right in Google’s backyard.

The company expects its team will grow to over 100 researchers and engineers by the end of the year. The company already moved several of its staff from its newly-created Autonomous Driving Unit (ADU) to Sunnyvale and recently hired a Tesla Autopilot software engineer.

Liang Heng, a PhD graduate in Electrical Engineering from Stanford, joined Tesla’s Autopilot team last year after CEO Eon Musk called for “hardcore software engineers” to join the company’s effort to make the next generation of Autopilot fully autonomous. Now he leaves the automaker only 5 months later to join Baidu’s autonomous driving team as a ‘Software Architect’.

Prior to joining Tesla, Heng was working at Google on Street View. Coincidently, the man in charge of Baidu’s Autonomous Driving Unit (ADU), Jing Wang, is also formerly from Google.

Wang commented on the launch of the new R&D center:

“Baidu is fully committed to making self-driving cars a reality. Autonomous vehicles will save lives and make transportation more efficient. Baidu’s Silicon Valley car team will play a significant role in building the car of the future.”

Baidu says that the team will include machine learning researchers as well as hardware and software engineers across a variety of technical domains, from robotics and computer vision to onboard computers and sensors. The company will also be looking for engineers with experience in the automotive industry.

Its Sunnyvale offices are already full of AI and machine learning experts led by Andrew Ng, the founder and lead scientist of Google’s Deep Learning project. He is now Chief Scientist for Baidu in Silicon Valley.

Pictures: Baidu’s Sunnyvale offices via South Bay Construction

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  1. Mitchell - 7 years ago

    I would say he couldn’t handle the pressure of working for Elon or he just couldn’t cut it. Most of the times the word “poaching” is used the employee didn’t actually get poached, the employee was fired from Tesla. I’m not saying this article states anything about poaching but it is interesting when one publication states that a Tesla employee was poached while another says he wasn’t, I’m talking about Chris Porrit who Fortune claimed he was poached while Motley fool says specifically that he wasn’t poached when in reality he left Tesla in 2015. It’s amazing how much misinformation is out there and people believe it.

    • Fred Lambert - 7 years ago

      We broke that story. Motley Fool didn’t “say” that they just rewrote our story correctly. We never said he was poached and clearly mentioned the gap between him leaving Tesla and joining Apple. It’s just that a bunch of publication misquoted us.

      • Mitchell - 7 years ago

        Fred, I wasn’t talking about you. I was talking about Fortune that said he was poached and Motley who said” But Tesla has confirmed with The Motley Fool that Porritt left that company as early as September 2015. This means that Apple hired a former employee, and didn’t poach a key executive straight from Tesla’s current executive team. This is an important tidbit for investors to understand, as it suggests there were already issues between Tesla and Porritt unrelated to Apple’s hire of the engineer.” Your articles are on spot but many other companies that publish articles are completely wrong as an example: “Apple Just Poached a Senior Tesla Executive: Report” as Fortune’s article claimed.

    • Nøderak - 7 years ago

      It’s a free country. Can’t a guy move from job 2 job without being called poached? What next: traitor, wishy-washy, slug…

      • Mitchell - 7 years ago

        I didn’t call them poached but much of the news media does

  2. Mohamed Ibrahim - 7 years ago

    Step one: Send CV to Tesla Autopilot. Step Two: Learn & Copy everything. Step three: Shop for business plan/Investors/lead research position. Boom! You’re rich! Maybe Elon needs to put Cameras in every room before Chinese companies start stealing his three-layers chips -sensor suite idea ( three layers of hardware failure safety that reduces autopilot hardware failure to zero in all conditions) . In order to beat Tesla, you’ll need kick arse chips-sensors and backup safety rebooting with amazing reliability levels in all conditions. So far only Tesla is hiring all the genius chips and sensors designers! Geohot and others are talking out of their arses!

  3. kuk - 7 years ago

    Make China great again. They wish 😀


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