Baidu’s Japan unit is looking to help businesses penetrate China’s market. Source: Shutterstock

Baidu senior VP announces resignation, plans to start own company

JUST days after suffering a blow to its workforce, Baidu will have to nurse yet another bruise – senior vice president and former general manager of its self-driving unit, Wang Jin, announced he will be resigning in April and has plans to start his own company.

Barely a week ago, Baidu head of artificial intelligence Andrew Ng announced his departure after about three years of working there. He wrote in a Medium blog he was leaving to “continue my work to shepherd in this important societal change”, referring to the incoming prevalence of AI in people’s lives.

“Baidu’s AI is incredibly strong, and the team is stacked up and down with talent. I am confident AI at Baidu will continue to flourish. After Baidu, I am excited to continue working towards the AI transformation of our society and the use of AI to make life better for everyone.”

Wang’s resignation was confirmed on Monday at a conference held by Angel Plus. According to Chinese-language media (as translated by TechNode), Angel Plus is reportedly an investor in Wang’s new venture.

Local media report Wang’s plans for a new company also involve autonomous driving. In an internal message to employees, Baidu said Wang would be leaving due to “personal and family reasons”.

Wang’s role in Baidu’s self-driving research department has been an influential one, as was Ng’s in the AI department. According to All China Tech, Wang is responsible for setting up research centers in the US and Shenzhen, as well as for co-founding Baidu Research in 2013.

Under his supervision and leadership, Wang brought Baidu several breakthroughs. In 2015, a Baidu autonomous car completed its first road test, and in 2016, Baidu became the 15th company in the world to receive a permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles allowing it to test its self-driving tech in the US.

SEE ALSO: China’s Baidu gets California’s nod to test self-driving cars

While Wang only just announced his resignation, it seems Baidu had prepared its employees for his departure. On March, the company reportedly announced in an internal letter Wang would no longer be with Baidu, and that a new unit – the Intelligent Driving Group (IDG) – would be born. According to the letter, it will be headed by newly-appointed group president, Qi Lu, who joined Baidu in January.

To add insult to injury, Chinese investment holdings company Tencent announced it had poached Baidu researcher Tong Zhang, who leads Baidu’s Big Data Lab. Tencent said it had assigned Tong to lead its own AI Lab, which focuses on computer vision, speech recognition, and natural language processing.