BEIJING -- China's top online search firm Baidu Inc. said it aims to put self-driving buses on the road in three years and mass-produce them within five years.
Baidu has formed a business arm to oversee efforts related to automobiles. The unit also will oversee Baidu's partnership with BMW AG to develop an autonomous passenger vehicle, which may also be put into mass production within five years, a spokesman told Reuters on Monday.
Baidu Senior Vice President Wang Jing will lead the new unit as general manager.
Self-driving cars have emerged as a new global battlefront for automakers and technology companies.
Alibaba Group Holding says it will launch its first self-driving car in a partnership with China's SAIC Motor Corp., while U.S. tech heavyweights Google and Apple also are developing autonomous cars.
The Baidu spokesman declined to give details about potential automakers that might partner for the bus project or invest in Baidu's new business unit.