Chuin-Wei Yap:

Chinese Internet search giant Baidu Inc. is investing in a growing collection of patents and stepping up field tests in its quest to develop autonomous cars, a race that pits the company against global technology heavyweights, its Chief Executive Officer Robin Li said on Thursday.

The venture for the driverless vehicles, which can be remotely summoned and directed, relies heavily on artificial intelligence, a strategic direction in which Baidu has invested heavily.

“Artificial intelligence will continue to be an unceasing core for Baidu innovations,” Mr. Li, also Baidu’s chairman, said on the sidelines of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the annual political conclave that advises China’s legislature.

Baidu has applied for many patents in pursuit of the technology and “we will keep applying as the technology is still at an early stage,” he said. The company currently has a few autonomous cars undergoing tests, he said.