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Baidu's "Android" play may end up more like Nokia

Rebecca Zisser / Axios

*This post has been updated on July 25th at 9:30 am to include a response from Baidu.

Baidu, the search juggernaut often called "the Google of China," with a 76% share of the country's 700 million Internet users, is pushing further to mimic the U.S. tech giant, styling a new open-source self-driving program as "the Android of autonomous cars."

But experts are skeptical of "Apollo," as Baidu calls the program. They sense desperation from a self-driving late-comer hunting for a big break in a significant future industry. "I see it more as a Hail Mary pass" than a threat to industry leaders like Alphabet's Waymo and Tesla, Navigant analyst Sam Abuelsamid tells Axios.

Why it matters: Baidu's play — even if ultra-ambitious — reflects the scale of the global race to transform transportation, and is a shot over the bow of leaders of the nascent industry. China and its tech giants are highly unlikely to stand by while U.S., German and Japanese companies seize the high ground in a new self-driving age.