The fund's launch coincides with the release of Apollo 1.5, the second generation of the company's open-source autonomous vehicle software.
Chinese search provider Baidu Inc. today announced the launch of a 10 billion yuan ($1.5 billion) fund for supporting autonomous driving projects.
Presently, the Apollo source code is claimed to have been downloaded by more than 1300 companies around the world.
Some of its partners include Hyundai, Microsoft Cloud, Nvidia, Continental, Bosch, TomTom, Velodyne, UCAR, ROS, Grab, esd electronics, Neousys Technology, and autonomous driving startups such as Momenta and iDriver+ Technologies. Baidu made its Apollo self-driving vehicle platform freely available to the auto industry earlier this year.
"The establishment of the fund is an incentive for Baidu to attract more engineers and developers to not only enhance the usefulness of its Apollo system but also improve the adoption chances of its system", said Kirk Boodry, an analyst with New Street Research.
With the latest Apollo upgrade, Baidu said it opens its technologies to enables vehicles to perform autonomous driving capabilities in designated lanes, perfectly recognise obstacles and passengers and make optimal driving decisions, even at night.
Baidu opened the platform to third parties hoping it would quicken its technology development and enable the company to compete with U.S. rivals such as Tesla and Google's Waymo project that have already heavily invested in the area.
Baidu's Apollo project - named after the NASA moon landing - aims to create technology for completely autonomous cars, which it says will be ready for city roads in China by 2020. Beijing police said they are looking at an incident which occurred in July, to determine whether the company broke city traffic rules by testing a driverless auto on public roads as part of a demonstration for a press event.