Baidu says 2nd-gen Kunlun AI chips enter mass production

Sign of Baidu is seen on a glass at its booth during the Digital China exhibition in Fuzhou, Fujian
A sign of Baidu is seen on a glass at its booth during the Digital China exhibition in Fuzhou, Fujian province, China May 5, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer

August 18, 2021

BEIJING (Reuters) – Chinese tech giant Baidu said on Wednesday it had begun mass-producing second-generation Kunlun artificial intelligence (AI) chips, as it races to become a key player in the chip industry which Beijing is trying to strengthen.

The new generation of Kunlun AI chips, using 7 nm process technology, achieved a top computational capability two-to-three times the previous generation, Baidu said in a statement.

Kunlun chips, whose first generation entered mass production in early 2020, have been used mostly by Baidu in smart electric vehicles and cloud computing.

Chinese technology giants are stepping up efforts to design their own chips in a sign of China’s ambition to reduce its dependence on foreign producers such as Qualcomm Inc and Nvidia Corp.

U.S. sanctions imposed on hardware maker Huawei Technologies Co Ltd have prevented the Chinese telecom giant from sourcing components including semiconductors, crippling its smartphone business.

Beijing-based Baidu is considering commercialising its AI chip design capabilities, with the aim of making the Kunlun unit a standalone company, Reuters has reported.

In March, Kunlun completed a round of fundraising that valued the business at about $2 billion.

Baidu also operates another chip unit called Honghu.

(Reporting by Yingzhi Yang and Brenda Goh; Editing by Stephen Coates)