The funds will be spread across 100 different projects in the next three years.

Chinese web giant Baidu has announced a $1.5 billion investment fund for autonomous vehicle projects.

The company is already working on an open-source autonomous driving platform, known as Apollo. The latest v1.5 release is said to add significant new capabilities including obstacle perception, planning, cloud simulation, HD maps and deep learning.

"The cloud simulation system on Apollo is the only platform that provides open, built-in HD maps tailored for autonomous driving," Baidu says. "Based on large scale cloud computing capacity, Apollo has a vast amount of real traffic data in China, and has a virtual running capacity of one million kilometers per day."

The company claims more than 1,300 companies have downloaded Apollo source code. The interested parties are said to include 70 partners ranging from OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers to small tech startups.

The Apollo platform is already being used to operate autonomous buses and cars in controlled environments and designated lanes.