|From: Frank Sully||9/13/2021 12:37:50 PM|
|Baidu Opens Robotaxi Service in Shanghai with Apollo Go Ride-Hailing Platform|
PRESS RELEASE PR Newswire
Sep. 13, 2021, 05:31 AM
BEIJING, Sep. 13, 2021/PRNewswire/ -- Today, Baidu announced that it will begin public testing of Apollo Go in Shanghai, marking the fifth city where passengers have the ability to trial the robotaxi mobile platform. Baidu is the only company to offer this service in the three first-tier cities of Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai.
The Shanghai operation will include 150 stations opened in phases throughout the city to provide users convenient access to residential areas, commercial areas, offices and public transportation. Passengers can use the service from 9:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. every day of the week.
This announcement comes on the heels of another milestone for Baidu Apollo – the expansion of Apollo Go to Tongzhou District in Beijing, where the service will enable residents and visitors of the suburb to experience travel in an autonomous vehicle. The first batch of routes in Tongzhou will cover a total of 22 stations– with a total distance over 31 miles, allowing for more than 100 trips every day.
According to a recent IHS Markit report, the major market potential for autonomous vehicles in the future will be pinned on business models such as robotaxis, which are estimated to account for more than 60 percent of China's future mobility sharing market by 2030, exceeding $201 billion. IHS also estimates that this portion of the market will be dominated by two to three robotaxi service providers, with the leading provider occupying more than 40 percent of the market share.
The autonomous driving industry in China has recently entered a new stage of development, characterized by trialing the implementation of large-scale applications. Wei Dong, vice president and chief safety operation officer of Baidu's Intelligent Driving Group, said that achieving this large-scale implementation requires three steps: regionalization, commercialization and verification via unmanned on-road operation. Baidu has already made headway in autonomous ride-hailing, achieving a 60% drop in cost per mile with the 5th generation robotaxi vehicle release in June. With the launch in Shanghai, Baidu Apollo is continuing to deliver on China's vision of developing a world-leading autonomous driving market.
As of the end of August 2021, Apollo L4 autonomous driving accumulated 8.7 million test miles. Following the launch in Shanghai, Baidu plans to bring Apollo Go services to 25 more cities in the next three years, making autonomous driving a reality for 3 million people in China.
Founded in 2000, Baidu's mission is to make the complicated world simpler through technology. Baidu is a leading AI company with strong Internet foundation. Baidu is traded on the NASDAQ Global Select Market under the symbol "BIDU", and on the main board of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange under the stock code "9888". Currently, one ADS represents eight Class A ordinary shares.
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|From: Frank Sully||9/13/2021 1:18:12 PM|
|WeRide launches China's first L4-level self-driving cargo van|
WeRide, a Chinese autonomous driving start-up company based in Guangzhou, works with Jiangling Motors (JMC) and delivery company ZTO Express to launch "Robovan", a cargo van equipped with Level 4 autonomous capabilities.
WeRide, valued at around $3.3 billion, is one of China's leading players in the field. With its acquisition of autonomous trucking company MoonX.AI., WeRide is competing against top players Baidu and Pony.ai.
The strategic partnership aims to mass-produce "Robovan" for urban logistics. WeRide provides the autonomous driving system, JMC handles manufacturing, and ZTO deploys the vehicles across its network, which covers 99% of China's cities and countries, according to TechCrunch citing ZTO.
After Robotaxi and Mini Robobus, Robovan is WeRide's third self-driving product. The Nissan-backed company has been testing its vehicles on the streets of Guangzhou since 2019, and the testing of Robobus helped develop Robovan. "We find the boundary between passenger vehicle and urban logistics vehicle is vanishing," according to CNBC citing Tony Han, CEO of WeRide.
Han declined to provide a timeline for the rollout but expects "tens of thousands" of Robovan to be deployed in the future.
The auto-driving sector has been thriving since Chinese local authorities have been rolling out favorable policies. Over 20 cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, and Chongqing, have designated areas for testing autonomous technology. Beijing is opening a 10-km expressway road section for robotaxi tests as well, according to China Daily.
However, just like any other automaker, WeRide is also affected by chip shortages as its autonomous driving systems rely heavily on chips and sensors. According to CNBC, citing Tony Han, the chip shortage will not affect the current project with JMC and ZTO but would affect the company if they need to make 10,000 to 50,000 Robovans.
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|From: Frank Sully||9/14/2021 1:36:22 PM|
|Terrain Processing Technology for Heavy-Duty Autonomous Excavator Navigation|
Baidu, UMD Introduce First Autonomous Excavator That Can Perceive Complex Terrain
Researchers from Baidu Research Robotics and Auto-Driving Lab (RAL) and the University of Maryland, College Park (UMD) have developed a real-time mapping approach for autonomous navigation of excavators on complex terrains, named Terrain Traversability Mapping (TTM).Using TTM, an autonomous excavator can navigate through unstructured outdoor environments consisting of deep pits, steep hills, rock piles, and other complex terrain features. This is the first complex terrain processing approach developed for heavy-duty excavation machines.
Terrain traversability mapping system used for autonomous excavator navigation
The development of robotic systems such as autonomous excavators in the construction and mining industries is a growing trend as these companies worldwide are encountering labor shortages in the face of increasing demand for skilled heavy machinery operators. The global market size for excavators was $44.12 billion in 2018 and is expected to grow to $63.14 billion by 2026.
Excavators are widely operated in unstructured and dangerous environments that have unpredictable and potentially hazardous conditions. The operations of excavators consist of digging and dumping, which raise the risk of landfalls or cave-ins. These complex environments lack lane markings, and obstacles tend to be non-uniform and random, making them less navigation-friendly. To ensure the safety of operators in this environment, it is crucial for autonomous excavators to be able to identify different terrain features and predict safe regions for navigation.
To enable autonomous excavators to handle complex terrains, the researchers developed an efficient learning-based geometric method to extract terrain features from RGB images and 3D point clouds and incorporate them into a global map for planning and navigation. The method uses physical characteristics of the excavator, including maximum climbing degree and machine specifications, to determine the traversable area, adapt to changing environments, and update the terrain information in real-time. In addition, these researchers have prepared a novel autonomous excavator terrain dataset, which consists of RGB images and LiDAR point clouds from construction sites with seven different categories based on navigability. This integrates the mapping approach with planning and control modules to continuously improve the autonomous excavator navigation system. Experiments showed that while using TTM, an excavator can navigate through unstructured environments with a much higher success rate compared to existing planning schemes.
Terrain mapping results computed using TTM
The new TTM technique comes on the heels of another innovation Baidu RAL and UMD co-developed this June -- an autonomous excavator system (AES) that can perform material loading tasks for 24 hours without any human intervention, while offering performance nearly equivalent to that of an experienced human operator. The researchers described their methodology in a research paper published on June 30, 2021, in Science Robotics.
To learn more about this work, visit: research.baidu.com.
Ready to see AES, an autonomous excavator system for material loading without human intervention? Baidu will demonstrate this technology at MINExpo 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada from September 13th to 15th! Visit us at booth 25306-S. More info: minexpo.com
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|From: Frank Sully||9/14/2021 5:24:19 PM|
|Self-driving car company DeepRoute bags US$300 million from Alibaba, others|
- Jeneration Capital, an investor focused on tech companies in greater China, and Geely, a Chinese automaker, also participated in this round.
- Using the fresh funds, DeepRoute plans to more than double its fleet of test robotaxis from 70 to 150 by the end of this year.
- The company also aims to expand its workforce, including in-vehicle safety drivers, from 400 to 600 before the year ends.
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|From: Frank Sully||9/15/2021 7:33:01 AM|
|Canalys Shows China’s Cloud Infrastructure Market Has Hit $6.6 Billion, Baidu AI Cloud Sees Fastest Growth|
September 15, 2021
Global technology market analyst firm Canalys released the second quarter 2021 report for China’s cloud computing market on Monday, showing that the country’s cloud infrastructure market increased by 54% in the period to reach $6.6 billion.
The four cloud titans in China – namely Alibaba Cloud, Huawei Cloud, Tencent Cloud and Baidu AI Cloud – have successfully maintained their dominant position in the market with an overall growth rate of 56%, accounting for 80% of the total cloud spending.
Among them, the second quarter growth rate of Baidu AI Cloud is not only higher than the growth rate of the whole market, but also higher than the overall growth rate of the four companies.
Meanwhile, the other three cloud computing giants are also developing steadily.
A senior technician from a cloud vendor revealed to Chinese media outlet Caijingthat Alibaba Cloud’s current growth rate of public cloud revenue is slowing down. Other businesses such as hybrid cloud and integrated business are becoming new growth drivers for the company.
The growth of Huawei Cloud has greatly benefited from the sales ability from Huawei’s Enterprise Business Group and its cooperation with government customers. However, an individual from Huawei Cloud told Caijing that the company is now focused on winning more digital enterprises rather than government customers this year.
Tencent Cloud is currently strengthening its construction of SaaS, and enticing customers to use Tencent Cloud through products such as WeChat, WeChat mini programs, Enterprise WeChat and Tencent Meeting.
Alex Smith, Vice President of Canalys, said in the report that “Chinese tech companies could always rely on their local market.” Leading cloud service providers in China, including Baidu AI Cloud, are expected to gain more growth in this market.
The report determined that these four leading cloud service providers still maintain strong growth in 2021, saying that “local demand remains high as digital transformation, artificial intelligence and smart industries all remain on corporate and government agendas.”
At present, the scale of the cloud computing industry is growing rapidly, and competition in the domestic market is becoming more and more fierce.
According to Baidu’s second quarter financial report, the revenue of Baidu AI Cloud in the period increased by 71% year-on-year. Its market share in the fields of industrial Internet, intelligent transportation and others all achieved further growth.
Specifically, in the field of industrial Internet, Baidu AI Cloud bagged the bid for a project worth 179 million yuan ($27.78 million) in Tongxiang, Zhejiang Province. The company will jointly build an industrial Internet platform for new materials and fashion industries with the local government to cultivate the world’s most advanced manufacturing industrial clusters.
In the field of infrastructure as a service (IaaS), Baidu AI Cloud provides private cloud solutions and other cloud applications to serve Geely, the largest private automobile group in China.
By June 2021, coverage of Apollo ACE smart transportation has grown to 20 cities in June 2021, up four fold from a year ago, based on contract amounts over 10 million yuan.
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|From: Frank Sully||9/15/2021 6:24:40 PM|
|Baidu: Buy The Drop|
Sep. 15, 2021 3:46 AM ET
Baidu, Inc. (BIDU)
The Asian Investor
- Baidu reported strong revenue growth and free cash flow in the second quarter, indicating that its business is still doing great.
- Baidu's digital advertising business is growing and the firm's crown jewel.
- Because of China’s crackdown and related fears, Baidu now trades at a discount valuation.
Beijing is cracking down on various sectors in the Chinese economy in a bid to reassert itself. The crackdown on private enterprises forced shares of Baidu ( BIDU) significantly lower in 2021, but the firm’s digital business is growing rapidly. The big drop in tech valuations this year creates an opportunity to engage!
China’s crackdown is washing up heavily discounted bargains
The Chinese government is using a heavy-handed approach to control its economy and reign in companies it deems to have become too powerful. Beijing dropped the hammer on Alibaba ( BABA) in April and handed the e-Commerce company a $2.8B finebecause of alleged anti-competitive practices. Alibaba was just one out of many companies that drew the ire of the Chinese government, with crackdowns accelerating in 2021. China’s anti-trust agency, the State Administration for Market Regulation, fined Baidu and Tencent 500,000 Chinese Yuan ($77,000) for past acquisitions without notifying authorities. Beijing most recently intervened in the private education market and limited the sector’s ability to raise capital abroad. Beijing is also said to want to increase supervision of foreign-listed companies, particularly those that deal with sensitive consumer data.
The crackdown sparked a massive decline in market valuations for large technology, internet and e-Commerce firms since February, namely Baidu, Alibaba ( BABA) and Tencent Holdings ( OTCPK:TCEHY).
Despite the crackdown on technology and internet companies, Baidu offers great value because its core business is booming and the stock has dropped more than 50% since February. Baidu also generates significant amounts of cash from its business, which is now accessible at a discounted valuation.
What stands out from Baidu’s most recent earnings card is that the company had a very successful second quarter, regarding commercial performance. While China’s crackdown on the tech sector, which is not Baidu-specific, attracted a lot of attention in 2021, the internet giant quietly executed on its business plan and reported impressive sequential growth rates. Baidu’s second quarter revenues reached 31.4B Chinese Yuan which is the equivalent of $4.9B… which represents a growth rate of 11% quarter over quarter. Baidu’s revenue growth was driven by continual strength in its core digital marketing business and its AI cloud business.
Baidu has evolved into an internet conglomerate with investments outside the digital world. To achieve even more revenue growth in the future and diversify, Baidu signed an agreement with Chinese automotive manufacturer Geely earlier this year in which the company commits to bringing a self-driving electric car to market by 2024. The EV sector is unlikely to experience regulatory intervention from Beijing because investments in the electric vehicle market are heavily encouragedand subsidized by the Chinese government, in part because these investments align with Beijing’s climate change goals. China has set a goal to become carbon neutral by 2060 and Baidu has said it wants to become carbon neutral by 2030. Baidu also invests in its autonomous driving platform, augmented reality, and the firm has a 56.2% investment in iQIYI (NASDAQ: IQ), an online entertainment service that is often compared to Netflix ( NFLX).
The biggest reason to own Baidu, however, may not relate to its many different businesses. The gem in Baidu’s business is still its search engine which, in part because of Alphabet's ( GOOGL) ( GOOG) absence from the Chinese market, has a commanding lead in the sector. Baidu has a market share in the search engine market of over 70%, giving the internet giant a significant lead over its second-largest rival in the market, Sogou (NYSE: SOGO), which has a market share of just 14%.
A leading market share in online search is worth a fortune to advertisers who keep flocking to the number 1-ranked Chinese search engine. According to Alexa, Baidu is the 5th most visited website in the world and China’s large population of 1.4B suggests that many more top-visited websites in the world will be in the Chinese language in the future. Baidu’s revenues from online marketing services increased 18% year over year in the second quarter and 22% year over year in the first six months of FY 2021, based on Chinese currency values, because advertising markets gained strength this year as the world slowly recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic. Second quarter revenues, as they relate to Baidu’s online activities, were 20.8B Chinese Yuan which is the equivalent to $3.2B. Core online marketing services generate about 64-67% of Alibaba’s total revenues, a percentage that has proven to be stable over time. Going forward, Alibaba should continue to generate the dominant share of its revenues from its online market/advertising business.
Baidu’s core internet business is hugely profitable, in part because Baidu has such a large market share. For that reason, Baidu’s business generates a lot of cash. Baidu’s second quarter cash flow from operating activities was 9.4B Chinese Yuan ($1.5B), excluding iQIYI-related cash flows. After investments, Baidu generated a free cash flow of 6.9B Chinese Yuan ($1.1B) in the second quarter. Streaming company iQIYI is a heavy burden on Baidu’s financial statements because the streaming business keeps losing money and Baidu consolidates the streaming company into its financial statements. Baidu has looked into selling the Netflix-like business to Tencent last year, but the deal fell through. I expect Baidu to monetize its 56% stake in iQIYI and sell the company in FY 2022 or later.
Baidu’s total second quarter free cash flow was 5.4B Chinese Yuan ($843M) which calculates to a free cash flow margin of 17%. Baidu has been consistently positive on the free cash flow side and the internet giant has a cash-rich balance sheet because of it.
Baidu had 42.9B Chinese Yuan ($6.6B) in cash available for its investments. But this amount does not include the 126.4B Chinese Yuan ($19.6B) that are parked in short-term investments. Baidu has more than $26B in short-term liquidity which also marks a five-year high.
Baidu vs. Alphabet
Baidu and Alphabet have a lot of business overlaps, although they are not direct rivals that operate in the same market. Both companies take a large share of their domestic advertising markets and invest in various technologies of the future, such as artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles and augmented reality, to diversify their businesses. Alphabet is about 13 times larger than Baidu regarding revenues and has a market value about 32 times larger than its Chinese rival.
Besides a revenue and market value gap, there is also a valuation gap, which can be traced back to the beginning of the article where I touched on Beijing’s attempt to control a larger share of the private economy. Because of the crackdown and resulting drop in Baidu’s market value, the firm’s revenue and profit growth are now significantly cheaper than Alphabet’s growth although Baidu, in the short term, deals with more uncertainty and risk than Alphabet.
|Market Cap||FY 2022 Est. Revenues||P-S Ratio||FY 2022 Est. EPS||P-E Ratio|
|Baidu||$56.82 billion||$22.59 billion||2.52||$10.88||14.84|
|Alphabet||$1,924.81 billion||$292.79 billion||6.57||$106.20||26.80|
Risks with Baidu
Growing regulatory intervention is a risk for Baidu and the stock. Should Beijing continue to escalate its regulatory crackdown, even in sectors outside of Baidu’s core business, US investors may prefer to stay away from Chinese technology stocks, which many already do. Longer term, Baidu faces strong growth prospects in its core business, online search, but also in its diversified investments in intelligent driving, augmented reality and artificial intelligence. The risk with Baidu may be higher than with the average US tech company, namely Google, but the upside may also be larger.
Doing business in China, and Asia, in general, is different than doing business in Western countries. China’s government sees itself as a steward of the economy and regularly cracks down on the economy, but then takes a hands-off approach and lets companies get back to work. China is a rational actor and has an interest in its leading tech companies doing well and being able to compete with the best. Baidu’s business grows, generates a lot of cash, and the 50%-discounted valuation makes Baidu a stock with a risk profile that is skewed to the upside!
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|From: Frank Sully||9/15/2021 9:06:33 PM|
| China’s new proposed law could strangle the development of AI|
China’s government is cracking down on what technology companies can develop—an approach that will halt innovation.
[Source images: hernan4429/iStock; Martin Holverda/iStock]
By ARIJIT SENGUPTA
China’s internet watchdog, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), recently issued a draft proposal of regulations to manage how technology companies use algorithms when providing services to consumers.
The proposed law mandates that companies must use algorithms to “actively spread positive energy.” Under the proposal, companies must submit their algorithms to the government for approval or risk being fined and having their service terminated.
This is an incredibly bad and even dangerous idea. It’s what happens when people who don’t understand AI try to regulate AI. Instead of fostering innovation, governments are looking at AI through their unique lenses of fear and trying to reduce the harm they worry about most. Thus, western regulators focus on fears such as violation of privacy, while Chinese regulators are perfectly okay with collecting private data on their citizens but are concerned about AI’s ability to influence people in ways deemed undesirable by the government.
If the Chinese law is adopted, it will create a lengthy bureaucratic process that will likely ensure that no small company or startup will survive or even enter the market. The moment you allow government regulators to be the final arbiters of what emerging technologies can and cannot do, you’ve strangled innovation. The only people who will profit under such a law are large companies that can invest in unproductive bureaucratic activities due to massive cash reserves and bad actors because they’ll ignore regulators and do whatever they want. Cash-starved startups who wish to follow the law will be most disadvantaged by this approach.
China is not alone in taking bureaucratic approaches to AI. In April, the European Union released a draft Artificial Intelligence Act that would ban certain AI practices outright and mandate that AI applications deemed “high risk” meet strict data governance and risk management requirements. This includes requirements on testing, training, and validating algorithms, ensuring human oversight, and meeting standards of accuracy, robustness, and cybersecurity. Businesses would need to prove that their AI systems conform with these requirements before placing them on the European market.
Imposing algorithm requirements or requiring companies to justify approaches can sound less onerous than the outright banning of technologies. The reality is that in either case, startups do not have the resources to participate in such bureaucratic slow processes. Smaller companies will be forced out of the arena even though they are most likely to create true innovations in this space.
Imagine a world where startups had to get patents on their technology before building their software. Only about half of U.S. patents are approved, which is not terrible, but it takes about two years for approval to come through. Algorithms are more difficult to examine than patents—especially deep learning algorithms which very few experts understand. Based on the lengthy timelines in the patent office, we can surmise that algorithm approval processes are likely to take longer than two years. This is simply not fast enough: Technology in a rapidly evolving space like AI would already be outdated by the time it was approved. Any approach that involves regulators preapproving algorithms would strangle innovation in this space.
There’s another reason why such legislation would be more onerous for small companies. For startups reliant on venture capital investments, typical funding cycles are 18 months long, which means that investors expect to see tangible results from the investment in less than 18 months. Thus, current investment approaches would not support waiting years to get algorithms approved before launching a product. While some VCs may adopt a different investment approach, similar to medical investments for example, many entrepreneurs would simply turn away from AI and pursue other opportunities.
The U.S. is in a unique position to get AI guidelines right. While China and the European Union outline ever-stricter guidelines banning certain types of AI, the U.S. has an opportunity to establish ethical guidelines without inhibiting innovation. The only appropriate approach to regulating AI is one where we make our societal goals clear from the start and hold companies liable if they violate those goals. For example, we don’t force every company to undergo Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspections before being able to operate. However, labor safety expectations are enshrined in law and violators are prosecuted. If companies find alternative approaches to keeping their employees safe, they are not penalized as long as the societal goals are achieved.
Giving government regulators the power to limit broad technology categories is not the approach that built the internet or the smartphone. That’s why the U.S. should tackle AI regulation by making our societal goals clear and giving organizations flexibility in achieving such goals.
Arijit Sengupta is the founder and CEO of Aible.
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|From: Frank Sully||9/17/2021 1:30:04 PM|
|China’s Baidu unveils autonomous driving ‘robot truck’ Xingtu|
- Xingtu will have a long-distance sensing capability of more than 1 kilometre and will achieve L3 autonomous driving on high-speed freight routes, firm says
- Baidu’s Apollo platform ‘has the potential to create more next-generation vehicles with self-driving capabilities’: analyst
Baidu’s open-source autonomous driving platform Apollo has spawned Xingtu, an electric “robot truck”, as mainland China’s artificial intelligence and search engine giant revs up the development of next-generation vehicles.
A mass production model launched by Baidu subsidiary DeepWay, Xingtu will have a long-distance sensing capability of more than 1 kilometre and will achieve Level 3 (L3) autonomous driving on high-speed freight routes. L3 means drivers can safely take their attention off the road in certain traffic conditions, but the technology still requires human intervention.
“ Autonomous driving must use advanced driverless technology to create new products that offer the ultimate experience to achieve commercial success,” said Wang Yunpeng, general manager of autonomous driving technology at Baidu. “We aim to create value in real-life scenarios, such as transporting people, deliveries and life services. This new generation of vehicles is by no means just a modified truck – it’s a robot truck.”
Beijing-based Baidu is controlled by Chinese billionaire Robin Li and has ambitions of becoming China’s autonomous driving bellwether. Its Apollo platform has been in development since 2013 and has nearly 8.7 million test miles. Apollo was being used by the top five global autonomous driving companies last year, and trailed only Google’s self-driving unit Waymo, Ford and Cruise, according to Navigant Research’s annual survey.
“The Apollo platform has the potential to create more next-generation vehicles with self-driving capabilities,” said Cao Hua, a partner at private-equity firm Unity Asset Management. “It remains to be seen whether products like Xingtu trucks will be well received by clients in the near future.”
The Xingtu electric truck developed by Baidu’s DeepWay. Photo: Handout
Equipped with 10 on-board cameras, five millimetre wave radars and three infrared detectors, along with advanced algorithms, Xingtu can achieve end-to-end autonomous driving – from perception to planning – very quickly, Baidu said. With a full load of 49 tonnes, Xingtu’s 450 kilowatt-hour battery pack will go as far as 300 kilometres on a single charge, it added.
Baidu did not, however, say when production would begin and how much the vehicle would be sold for.
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|From: Frank Sully||9/20/2021 1:59:59 PM|
|Baidu's self-driving taxis are popping up all across China's megacities|
Saturday, 18 Sep 2021 07:39 AM MYT
Baidu recently launched its Apollo Go self-driving cab programme in Shanghai. — Picture courtesy of Baidu via ETX Studio
SHANGHAI, Sept 18 — The battle is on between Alphabet in the United States and Baidu in China in regards to the development, launch and rollout of self-driving taxicabs. Baidu recently announced the launch of a test programme in five major cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, where residents can take advantage of vehicles equipped with its Apollo autonomous driving system.
Chinese company Baidu has announced the beginning of public tests of its autonomous driving technology Apollo in Shanghai through a small fleet of cabs available to be used by passengers. Known as China's answer to Google, the firm has already invested in five of the country's major cities (Beijing, Changsha, Cangzhou, Guangzhou and now Shanghai) with the objective of being present in some 30 cities by 2024. By then, several thousand vehicles equipped with this technology should be on the road in these Chinese metropolises.
In Shanghai, up to 150 pickup and dropoff stations will soon be opened up to the public so that residents can "automatically" have themselves driven to residential or commercial areas, to the nearest train station or to their work via a service called "Apollo Go."
These cars are equipped with level 4 autonomy, which allows the vehicle to move forward and maneuver alone, without any human intervention in predefined conditions and areas, although at any time a driver can take over in case of an emergency. Baidu is at the same stage of development and testing as Waymo, the autonomous car branch of the American company Alphabet.
Recently, Waymo announced the launch of a handful of self-driving cabs, without drivers, for use by the general public via a dedicated application. Another experiment is already taking place in Phoenix. Waymo has been working on autonomous mobility for more than 10 years now, running its cars and trucks equipped with their own technology. The company now claims to have driven more than 10 million cumulative kilometers. — ETX Studio
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|From: Frank Sully||9/20/2021 8:22:02 PM|
|WHERE CHINA’S LONG ROAD TO DATACENTER COMPUTE INDEPENDENCE LEADS|
September 20, 2021 Timothy Prickett Morgan
The Sunway TaihuLight machine has a peak performance of 125.4 petaflops acrpss 1-,649,600 cores. It sports 1.31 petabytes of main memory. To put the peak performance figure in some context, recall that the current (by far top) supercomputer until this announcement had been Tianhe-2 with 33.86 pea petaflop capability. One key difference, other than the clear peak potential, is that TianhuLight came out of the gate with demonstrated high performance on real-world applications, some of which are able to utilize over 8 million of the machine’s 10 million-plus cores.
While we are big fans of laissez faire capitalism like that of the United States and sometimes Europe – right up to the point where monopolies naturally form and therefore competition essentially stops, and thus monopolists need to be regulated in some fashion to promote the common good as well as their own profits – we also see the benefits that accrue from a command economy like that which China has built over the past four decades.
A recently rumored announcement of a GPU designed by Chinese chip maker Jingjia Micro and presumably etched by Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp (SMIC), the indigenous foundry in China that is playing catch up to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co, Intel, GlobalFoundries, and Samsung Semiconductor, got us to thinking about this and what it might mean when – and if – China ever reaches datacenter compute independence.
Taking Steps Five Years At A Time
While China has been successful in many areas, particularly in becoming the manufacturing center of the world, it has not been particularly successful in achieving independence in datacenter compute. Some of that has to do with the immaturity of its chip foundry business, some of it has to do with its experience in making big, wonking, complex CPU and GPU designs that can take on the big loads in the datacenter. China has a bit of a chicken and egg problem here, and as usual, the smartphone and tablet markets is giving the Middle Kingdom’s chip designers and foundries the experience they need to take it up another notch to take on the datacenter.
The motivations are certainly there for China to achieve chip independence. The current supply chain issues in semiconductors as well as the messy geopolitical situation between China and the United States, which draws in Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, and Europe as well. Like every other country on Earth, China has an imbalance between semiconductor production and semiconductor consumption, and that is partly a function of the immense amount of electronics and computer manufacturing that has been moved to China over the past two decades.
According to Dauxe Consulting, which provides research into the Chinese market, back in 2003 China consumed about 18.5 percent of semiconductors (that’s revenue, not shipments), which was a little bit less than the Americas (19.4 percent), Europe (19.4 percent), or Japan (23.4 percent). SMIC was only founded in 2000 and had negligible semiconductor shipment revenue at the time. Fast forward to 2019, which is the last year for which data is publicly available, and China’s chip manufacturing accounts for about 30 percent of chip revenues in the aggregate, but the chips that Chinese companies buy to build stuff account for over 60 percent of semiconductor consumption (which is revenues going to SMIC as well as all of the other foundries, big and small, around the world). This is a huge imbalance, and it is not surprising that the Chinese government wants to achieve chip independence.
While there may be strong political and economic reasons why Chinese chip independence might mean China’s reach outside of its own markets diminishes in proportion to how much it can take care of its own business. China can compel its own state, regional, and national governments as well as state-controlled businesses to Buy China, but it can’t do that outside of its political borders. It can make companies and governments in Africa and South America attractive orders they probably won’t refuse. It will be a harder sell indeed in the United States and Europe and their cultural and economic satellites.
More about that in a moment.
Let’s start our Chinese datacenter compute overview with that GPU chip from Jingjia Micro that we heard about last week as a starting point because it illustrates the problem China has. We backed through all of the stories and found that a site called MyDrivers is the originator of the story, as far as we can see, and has this table nicked from Jingjia Micro to show how the JM9 series of GPUs stacks up against the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 and GTX 1080 GPUs that debuted in late 2015 and that started shipping in 2016 in volume:
There are two of these JM9 series GPUs from Jingjia, and they are equal or better to the Nvidia equivalents. The top end JM9271 is the interesting one as far as we are concerned because it has a PCI-Express 4.0 interface and thanks to HBM2 stacked memory weighing in at 16 GB, it has twice the capacity of the GTX 1080 and at 512 GB/sec of bandwidth has 60 percent more memory bandwidth at 512 GB/sec while burning 11.1 percent more power and delivering 9.8 percent lower performance at 8 teraflops at FP32 single precision.
This Jingjia card is puny compared to the top-of-the-line “Ampere” GA100 GPU engine from Nvidia, which runs at 1.41 GHz, has 40 GB or 80 GB of HBM2E stacked memory, and 19.49 teraflops at single precision. The cheaper Ampere GA102 processor used in the GeForce RTX 3090 gamer GPU (as well as the slower RTX 3080) runs at 1.71 GHz, has 24 GB of GDDR6X memory, and delivers an incredible 35.69 teraflops at FP32 precision– and has ray tracing accelerators that can also be used to boost machine learning inference. The Ampere A100 and RTX 3090 devices burn 400 watts and 350 watts, respectively, because the laws of physics must be obeyed. If you want to run faster these days, you also have to run hotter because Moore’s Law transistor shrinks are harder to come by.
Architecturally speaking, the JM9 series is about five years behind Nvidia, with the exception of the HBM memory and the PCI-Express 4.0 interface. The chip is implemented in SMIC’s 28 nanometer processes, which is not even close to the 14 nanometer process that SMIC has working or its follow-on, which is akin to TSMC’s 10 nanometer node and Samsung’s 8 nanometer node (the latter process being used to make the Ampere RTX GPUs). Jingjia is hanging back, getting its architecture out there and tested before it jumps to a process shrink. TSMC has had 28 nanometer in the field for a decade now.
This is not even close to China’s best effort. Tianshu Zhixin is working on a 7 nanometer GPU accelerator called “Big Island” that looks to be etched by TSMC and including its CoWoS packaging (the same one used by Nvidia for its GPU accelerator cards). The Big Island GPU is aimed squarely at HPC and AI acceleration in the datacenter, not gaming, and it will absolutely be competitive if the reports (on very thin data and a lot of big talk it looks like) pan out. Another company called Biren Technology is working on its own GPU accelerator for the datacenter, and thin reports out of China say the Biren chip, etched using TSMC 7 nanometer processes, will compete with Nvidia’s next-gen “Hopper” GPUs. We shall see when Biren ships its GPU next year.
We are skeptical of such claims, and reasonably so. If you looked at the plan for the “Godson” family of MIPS-derived and X86-eumlating processors that were created by the Institute of Computing Technology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. (You know CAS, they are the largest shareholder in Chinese IT gear maker Lenovo.) We reported with great interest on the Godson processors (also known by the synonymous name Loongson) and the roadmap to span them from handhelds to supercomputers way back in February 2011. These processors made their way into the Dawning 6000 supercomputers made by Sugon, but as far as we know they did not really get any of the traction that Sugon had hoped in the datacenter.
It remains to be seen if the Loongson 3A5000 clone of the AMD Epyc processor, which is derived from the four-core Ryzen chiplet used in the “Naples” Epyc processor from 2017 and which is said to have its own “in-house” GS464V microarchitecture (oh, give me a break. . . .), will do better in the broader Chinese datacenter market. With the licensing limited to the original Zen 1 cores and the four-core chiplets, the AMD-China joint venture, called Tianjin Haiguang Advanced Technology Investment Co, has the Chinese Academy of Sciences as a big (but not majority) shareholder, and it is expected that a variant of this processor will be at the heart of at least one of China’s exascale HPC systems.
By the way, the old VIA Technologies (the third company with an X86 license) has partnered with the Shanghai Municipal Government to create the Zhaoxin Semiconductor partnership, which makes client devices based on the X86 architecture. Zhaoxin could be tapped to make a big, bad X86 processor at some point. Why not?
Thanks to being blacklisted by the US government, Huawei Technologies, one of the dominant IT equipment suppliers on Earth, has every motivation to help create an indigenous and healthy market for CPUs, GPUs, and other kinds of ASICs in China, and has a good footing with the design efforts of its arm’s length (pun intended) fabless semiconductor division, HiSilicon. The HiSilicon Kunpeng CPUs and Kirin GPUs hew pretty close to the Arm Holdings roadmaps, which is fine, and there is no reason to believe that if properly motivated – meaning enough money is thrown at it and China takes an attitude that it is going to be very aggressive with Hauwei sales outside of the United States and Europe – it could do more custom CPUs and even GPUs. It could acquire Jingia, Tianshu Zhixin, or Biren, for that matter.
For a while there, it looks like Suzhou PowerCore, a revamped PowerPC re-implementer that joined IBM’s OpenPower Consortium and that delivered a variant of the Power8 processor for the Chinese market, might try to extend into the Power9 and Power10 eras with its own Power chip designs. But that does not seem to have happened, or if it did, it is being done secretly.
The future Sunway exascale supercomputer at the National Supercomputing Center in Wuxi, which is one of the three exascale systems being funded by the Chinese government. It has a custom processor, a kicker to the SW26010 processor used in the original Sunway TaihuLight supercomputer, which also dates from 2016. The SW26010 had 260 cores, 256 of them skinny cores for doing math and four of the fat cores for managing data that feeds the cores, and we think that the Sunway exascale machine won’t have a big architectural change, but have some tweaks, add more compute element blocks to the die, and ride down the die shrink to reach exascale. The SW26010 and its kicker, which we have jokingly called the SW52020 because it has double of everything, mixes architectural elements of CPUs and math accelerators, much as Fujitsu’s A64FX Arm chips do. The A64FX is used in the “Fugaku” pre-exascale supercomputer at the RIKEN lab in Japan. Hewlett Packard Enterprise is reselling the A64FX in Apollo supercomputer clusters, but as far as we know, no one is reselling SW26010 in any commercial machines.
Arm server chip maker Phytium made a lot of noise back in 2016 with its four-core “Earth” and 64-core “Mars” Arm server chips, but almost immediately went mostly dark thanks to the trade war between the US and China that really got going in 2018.
The most successful indigenous accelerator to be developed and manufactured in China is the Matrix2000 DSP accelerator used at the National Super Computer Center in Guangzhou. That Matrix2000 chip, which uses DPs to do single-precision and double-precision math acceleration in an offload model from CPU hosts, just like GPUs and FPGAs, was created because Intel’s “Knights” many-core X86 accelerators were blocked for sale to China back in 2013 for supercomputers. The Matrix2000 DSP engines, along with the proprietary TH-Express 2+ interconnect, were deployed in the Tianhe-2A supercomputer with 4.8 teraflops of oomph each at FP32 single precision. That was back in 2015, mind you, when the GTX 1080 was being unveiled by Nvidia, for comparison.
As far as we know, these Matrix2000 DSP engines were not commercialized beyond this system and the upcoming Tianhe-3 exascale system, which will use a 64-core Phytium 2000+ CPU and a Matrix2000+ DSP accelerator. One-off or two-off compute engines are interesting, of course, but they don’t change the world except inasmuch as they show what can be done with a particular technology. But the real point is to bring such compute engines to the masses, thereby lowering their unit costs as volumes increase.
And China surely has masses. But a lot of Chinese organizations, both in government and in industry, have free will when it comes to architectures. But that could change. China could whittle down the choices for datacenter compute to a few architectures, all of them homegrown and all of them isolated from the rest of the world. It has enough money – and enough market of its own – to do that.
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