Nightmare comes true! Baidu to surpass Google in self-driving

Google’s nightmare that Chinese Internet giant Baidu may surpass it in self-driving has come true, China News reported on Feb. 8.

A self-driving car developed by Baidu

About three years ago, Google not only worried about Uber’s self-driving technology, it also worried about Chinese tech giant Baidu, according to Google’s internal e-mails exposed in the lawsuit filed by Waymo, the Google self-driving project, against Uber for patent infringement and stealing trade secrets.

Foreign media reported that in an email sent by Chris Urmson, former head of Google’s driverless car program, to Google’s founder, the head said that for the past six months they were no longer pursing victory, but trying to slow the rate of decline.

Moreover, Google’s top executive Dmitri Dolgov mentioned in an email that Google’s competitiveness was on the decline in the face of Chinese enterprises such as Baidu, reminding Google to take the challenge seriously.

However, it seems that Google did not pay much attention to challenges from Baidu or its other rivals judging from its performance in recent years.

By contrast, in 2017, Baidu launched its autonomous driving platform Apollo. Apollo is the first of its kind in the world and a great achievement in the self-driving industry.

The platform now has over 80 partners, including field leaders Bosch, Microsoft, and Blackberry, and the number still keeps rising.

Apparently, the remaining three years did not stop the rise of Baidu’s self-driving technology, and Apollo has now become “big trouble” for Google.

Baidu, as one of China’s first technology companies to explore artificial intelligence and self-driving, was recognized by Fortune magazine as one of the top four AI giants in the world. Its Apollo platform can provide developers with self-driving capabilities such as perception, route planning, and vehicle control via API or SDK.

In addition, Baidu’s self-driving technologies have the support of the Chinese government.

Forbes also pointed out in its article that Western self-driving companies are less likely to make a difference in China, but Baidu, with its unique algorithm, good business partners, and enormous support from the government, has a chance to overcome Google in self-driving.

China’s cultural exports hit $90 billion in 2017: Ministry of Commerce

China exported $88.19 billion worth of cultural products in 2017, up 12.4% year on year, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Commerce said at a news conference on Feb. 8.

The import of cultural products stood at $8.93 billion, down 7.6%. The surplus expanded by 15.2% compared with a year earlier, reaching $79.26 billion.

Over the last year, the country has seen the structure of its cultural exports optimize. The export of high value-added entertainment products, as well as radio, TV, and film equipment, all increased by 19.4% year on year, accounting for 34.5% of the total.

The US, Hong Kong SAR, Netherland, the UK, and Japan were the top five markets of China’s cultural imports and exports, accounting for 55.9% of the total value.

The exchange of cultural products between China and Belt and Road countries grew by 18.5% to $17.62 billion in 2017, accounting for 18.1% of the total export-import volume.

Daily bike-sharing users in China peaked at 70 million: report

China has 400 million registered bike-sharing users and the daily number of riders peaked at 70 million, according to Liu Xiaoming, vice minister of the Ministry of Transport, Beijing Morning Post reported.

The industry has generated revenue of 221.3 billion yuan ($35 billion), provided 390,000 jobs, and contributed 10.1 billion yuan of growth to information consumption last year, according to a report on the social and economic influence of shared-bicycles.

Seventy-seven shared-bicycle companies have emerged in China over the last two-plus years, with a combined total of 23 million bikes in Chinese cities, towns, and even villages, Liu said at a press meeting on Wednesday.

Shared-bikes have driven the growth of related businesses, the report showed. The industry has reduced the use of gas by 1.41 million tons, one percent of the national gas consumption in a year.

The industry has also helped to relieve 400 million hours of time spent in traffic, equal to the work hours of 240,000 people a year.

Though the government has been supporting the development of shared-bicycles, the sector also needs to be regulated, according to the Ministry of Transport.

According to information released by China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) last year, some bike-sharing startups have been kicked out of the market or integrated with other services after fierce competitions.

In the second half of 2017, some of the services made headlines for the difficulty that caused their customers in reclaiming deposits, such as Kuqi Bike, suggesting that the sector needs to be better regulated.

Pet care business sees a rise as Spring Festival approaches

Pet shops in Chinese cities are seeing more business as people go home for the Lunar New Year, or travel during the holiday. As a result, the price for pet care services is up 20 percent, Beijing Morning Post reported.

Many pet owners choose to have their animals stay in pet shops for the Spring Festival holiday, because the procedures to take pets home is quite complicated in China.

A pet owner surnamed Guo said she started to look for pet shops last month, because she will fly from Kunming in southwest China to Chongqing and stay there for about half a month for the holiday.

Guo said she will have to pay 1,500 yuan ($237) for half a month of pet care services, and she will have to provide her own dog food.

For pet shop owners, fostering pets during the holiday is a busy and lucrative business. An owner of a pet store said it is the third year that he chose not to go home but to stay in the city where he works to earn extra money.

Some pet owners choose to have their pets taken care of by another family member during the holiday, which is less expensive than having them kept at pet stores. Still, some pet owners like to take their companions home, despite the complicated procedures.

Sichuan Airlines reportedly will roll out pet air tickets in March. But according to its plans, pets are only allowed to stay in belly of a plane.

New system developed to boost China’s earthquake prediction ability

Chinese scientists have discovered an earthquake monitoring system called AETA, which will be able to forecast earthquakes at least one to 15 days ahead of time after fully deployed, according to its chief developer, Science and Technology Daily reported on Feb. 8.

AETA is able to capture earthquake precursors, record signs before and after a quake, and discover patterns to predict earthquakes, said Wang Xinan, director of an earthquake monitoring and prediction technology research center based in southern China’s Shenzhen.

The system is placed under the ground or in a cave to capture underground sounds and other signs before an earthquake happens.

Unlike traditional bulky monitoring instruments, AETA is made up of a small group of compact and lightweight, sophisticated semiconductor sensors.

AETA picked up signals when a 6.5-magnitude earthquake jolted waters near Taiwan’s Hualien County on Tuesday.

The system also proved useful in predicting earthquakes in southwest China’s Sichuan province in last September and October, respectively.

Currently, the country has nearly 200 sets of AETA, most of which are placed in the southwestern provinces of Sichuan and Yunnan, as well as in Beijing and surrounding areas. Taiwan is also covered by the monitoring system.

We feel so much safer in China: foreign friends

Foreigners who have been to China all give a thumbs-up to the sense of security China has given to them, saying that they feel much safer in China.

China is acknowledged as one of the safest countries in the world. It has precious experience in social governance, offering a good reference for other countries.

“Is China safe?”

A tourist from Finland said that he feels much safer in China than in Europe on the influential travel reviewer website TripAdvisor.

An internet user who has been living in China for 15 years noted on the American Q&A platform Quora that she was never mocked or discriminated on the streets in China. Sometimes she even takes her 11-year-old daughter on the subway back home at night, something she would not dare in other countries.

Ismail Hussein, the associate editor-in-chief of the magazine “China Today” in Arabic, also expressed his sense of safety in China, saying that he once took an underpass at night, but did not feel afraid because of the many surveillance cameras around.

He said that once when he left Nasr City, Cairo, he was informed of a large explosion just half an hour after he left the area.

Maria, a Brazilian who has lived in China for nearly 20 years, said that she hesitated about going back to Brazil, as she would not like to see the overwhelming news on murders and drug trafficking in Brazil.

Anil Sigdel, a political scientist and columnist from the US who has lived in India, Austria, Spain, and China for years, said that China is one of the safest countries in the world, adding that compared with the U.S., China exercises strict gun controls, which reduces the number of violent crimes.

Raphael, a Brazilian working in media for years in China, noted that it is understandable that China has become one of the safest countries in the world, as Chinese people are deeply rooted in Confucian culture, and China has strict laws and regulations and governing measures.

The results can be attributed to the Communist Party of China’s effective governance of the country, which is hard to be copied by other countries, he added.