BMW Baidu autonomous carBMW has teamed up with Baidu – ‘the Chinese Google’ – to research driverless car technologies.

The news comes hot on the heels of Google’s own autonomous vehicle, with similarly far-reaching potential: Baidu is the search engine of choice for 85 per cent of China’s online users.

The search giant told Tech in Asia it will work with BMW to develop a “highly-automated driving (HAD) car specifically for the Chinese market”, which makes use of Baidu’s 3D mapping technology.

And whilst the two firms aren’t necessarily promising a product for commercial release, they do expect to deliver a working prototype within three years.

Crucially, the BMW-Baidu project differs from the Google car as it focuses on automated functions, rather than a completely autonomous car. So expect to see technologies such as automatic parking, adaptive cruise control and systems requiring intelligent mapping.

This is a period of ambitious growth for Baidu, with the firm recently revealing it was working on its own driverless car, as well as unveiling a new version of Google Glass. It has even gone as far as developing a pair of chopsticks that can measure food quality.

It will be interesting to see what – if anything – this partnership can do about two of the biggest challenges faced by the Chinese automotive industry – traffic and pollution. Watch – or rather, search – this space.