China bolder than the West in accepting new AI, says tech executive
Published: Mar 09, 2019 12:05 AM
The local government of North China's Tianjin has become the world's first to procure self-driving buses which will soon be put into service, chief executive of a major Chinese artificial intelligence (AI) firm said on Friday.

The availability of the buses coming up with Level 3-4 autonomy is an indication the China's government is bolder than those in the West in accepting new technologies, said Chen Haibo, founder and CEO of DeepBlue Technology, the company supplying the buses.

"There is a growing trend of employing AI technologies to serve the people and the push for technology development is not intended to threaten others," he stated.

The remarks were made when the Shanghai-based AI firm unveiled a joint research center for machine vision with Tsinghua University's Department of Computer Science and Technology in Beijing. 

The 15 million yuan ($2.23 million) facility will strengthen the link between academic research and business innovation, in the hopes of advancing the AI capabilities of Chinese companies. It will step up efforts of researchers at Tsinghua University and DeepBlue's product development teams to produce a market-ready product, according to DeepBlue, without elaborating. 

This collaboration will "accelerate the process of translating scientific research results into product applications," according to a statement released Friday, citing Xue Qikun, vice president of Tsinghua University.

The progress China has made in recent years in the AI sphere mainly centers on various AI-powered applications, and the government has also revved up its commitment to AI-related basic research and chipmaking, Sun Fuchun, professor of the Department of Computer Science and Technology at Tsinghua University, told the Global Times. 

Unlike many AI firms that focus largely on the software side, DeepBlue, whose business includes self-driving vehicles, smart retail, AI-powered DNA testing, robots and AI chips, has built both software and hardware. The company has a factory in Changzhou, East China's Jiangsu Province and two other factories are being built, according to Chen.

The company is among a growing number of Chinese AI businesses that have extended their reach into overseas.

Last year, DeepBlue opened its European headquarters in Luxembourg and exported AI-powered products including smart vending machines to Europe, according to the company, which didn't reveal export numbers.

Its palm recognition system will be sold in at least three European countries this year, according to DeepBlue CEO, saying palm recognition is preferred over facial recognition in light of the continent's privacy protection laws.

The company remains cautious toward making inroads into the US market. Other than some research partnerships, the company has yet to engage the market, Chen told the Global Times in an interview.

"We pay high attention to the US market. It's hoped the US market will be more open and the US won't hold any prejudices against or have any worries about Chinese products," he noted.

"Greater confidence will lead to greater openness," said Wang Xinlei, chief strategy officer of DeepBlue Technology, urging the US to be more open-minded toward China's growing influence in the world of AI.