The Chinese web giant Baidu has announce the  launch of  its first driverless car in the second half of 2015.It had previously said it was working on such a car but did not say when it would be available. The news, reported by Chinese language website TechWeb, will put it head to head with rival Google. The firm will work with an unnamed car manufacturer, according to Baidu’s senior vice president Jin Wang.

He made the announcement at the China Cloud Computing conference.

The firm has previously teamed up with BMW to develop semi-autonomous car technology.

The head of Baidu’s deep learning lab Yu Kai has previously told the press that the firm does not agree with Google’s view of a completely autonomous car, looking instead to develop a vehicle that will retain the traditional pedals but give the driver greater freedom.

Artificial intelligence is rapidly becoming a key battleground for tech firms, with self-driving cars seen as one of the first practical applications for the technology.

Baidu’s rise in the field of artificial intelligence suffered a setback last week when Stanford University -which runs an AI test to see whether computers can recognise and sort images – banned Baidu from competing for the next year.

The web giant was stripped of its 2015 title after it emerged that it broke the rules over how many tests it could run.

Google announced last month that its prototype self-driving cars would take to the public roads this summer around its headquarters in Mountain View, California.

It also recently revealed that its cars had been involved in 13 minor accidents over the six years of tests.

How they see the market evolving: Gradually. Most car makers are adding driverless features, such as parking assist, lane centering and intelligent cruise control, starting with higher-end models. The companies see driverless cars remain in private ownership, with consumers retaining some control over the vehicle. They’ll work best on highways, initially.