Chinese tech giant Baidu has announced a new autonomous vehicle platform called Project Apollo, which aims to help speed up the development of self-driving cars. "Baidu says the platform encompasses both hardware and software, providing partners with the tech and open-source code needed to help their own vehicles perceive obstacles, plan their routes, and otherwise move around our world," reports The Verge. From the report: Baidu says it will first open up Project Apollo for cars operating in restricted environments in July, before offering it to vehicles driving in simple urban road conditions later this year. That's ahead of a gradual rollout of self-driving features that should see cars operating fully autonomously on highways and regular roads by 2020. The release comes as Baidu moves to position itself at the forefront of the autonomous vehicle industry. The Chinese company has aimed for the ambitious goal of getting a self-driving car to market by 2018, and is challenging rivals such as Google on its home turf, building a team of engineers based in Silicon Valley and scoring relevant permits so it can test vehicles in California.