Ford Motor Company and Chinese internet firm Baidu have partnered on a two-year project to jointly advance the development and on-road testing of driverless vehicles in China.

The companies will test the SAE Level 4-capable driverless vehicle on designated roads in Beijing by the end of this year.

Ford has completed test vehicle modification using Baidu’s Apollo Virtual Driver System (VDS).

The latest agreement further boosts Ford and Baidu’s existing partnership, as US car manufacturer Ford is a founding member of the Apollo Committee, an advisory group for Baidu’s Apollo autonomous driving open platform.

According to Ford, the collaboration aligns with its plans to promote driverless vehicle technologies as part of its vision of designing ‘smart vehicles for a smart world’.

“Working with a leading tech partner like Baidu allows us to leverage new opportunities in China.”

Ford Autonomous Vehicles president and CEO Sherif Marakby said: “Working with a leading tech partner like Baidu allows us to leverage new opportunities in China to offer innovative solutions that improve safety, convenience and the overall mobility experience.

“This project marks a new milestone in the partnership between Ford and Baidu, and supports Ford’s vision to design smart vehicles that transform how we get around.”

After Beijing, the partners will explore further opportunities to test the driverless vehicle in other Chinese cities in the future.

Baidu Intelligent Driving Group vice president and general manager Zhenyu Li said: “This project will combine our leading-edge technological know-how and understanding of China together with Ford’s vehicle expertise, marking a significant step forward towards Baidu’s goal of developing autonomous driving vehicles that will greatly benefit future consumers.”

In June, Ford and Baidu signed an agreement to jointly explore new opportunities for cooperation in areas of connectivity, artificial intelligence and digital marketing.