Volvo has announced that it has signed an agreement with Chinese internet search provider Baidu to develop fully-autonomous electric vehicles for the Chinese market. Gothenburg said this is the first time a foreign carmaker has worked this closely with Baidu on autonomous vehicles, and that the partnership will underline its aspirations to be the supplier of choice for mobility companies around the world.

The two companies have agreed to pool resources and prepare for mass production of these self-driving electric vehicles, with Volvo chosen by Baidu to be its partner due to its long-standing safety credentials, the Swedish carmaker said. Baidu will provide its Apollo autonomous driving platform, while Volvo will contribute with its expertise and technologies in the automotive industry.

“With Baidu we take a big step forward in commercialising our autonomous compatible cars, built on Volvo’s industry-leading safety technology,” said Volvo president and chief executive officer Håkan Samuelsson. “There is a strong development in autonomous drive in China, where Baidu is a leading player, and the market there offers huge opportunities for us as the supplier of choice for autonomous fleets.”

Baidu president Dr Ya-Qin Zhang added, “We are very glad that Volvo Cars has established a strategic partnership with Baidu in the development of a fully autonomous car compatible with our autonomous driving platform Apollo. We look forward to working closely with Volvo to provide the world with the safest auto products for the benefit of humankind.”

Volvo sees China as key to the future of autonomous vehicles, as the Middle Kingdom is likely to become the single largest market for autonomous cars over the coming decades, according to industry forecasts. Earlier in the year, market research firm IHS Markit predicted that around 14.5 million autonomous cars will be sold in China by 2040, taking up nearly half of the projected total global volume of around 33 million.

As such, the company wants to capitalise and lead this disruption in the industry, a desire reflected in Volvo’s long-term plan of becoming a leader in electrification, autonomous drive and new models of car ownership and access. It certainly isn’t shy about its ambitions, expecting a third of its annual vehicle sales to be autonomous by the middle of next decade.

GALLERY: Volvo 360c Concept