Baidu partners with BAIC to introduce Apollo Moon robotaxi
Baidu has partnered with EV maker Arcfox, part of China's state-owned BAIC Group (Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Co. Ltd), to accelerate the commercialization of fully autonomous ride-hailing services, and to jointly release the latest version of the Apollo robotaxi.
"As early as 2017, Baidu and BAIC Group entered into a strategic partnership," said Baidu's Zhenyu Li. "Both sides share the same goals and insist on independent R&D to promote the development of autonomous driving in China. The launch of Apollo Moon is an important breakthrough signifying the powerful linkage between China's leading autonomous driving technology and the most advanced smart vehicle platform, marking a landmark step in the field of robotaxi ride-hailing services globally."
The partnership intends to build a fleet of a thousand Baidu's Apollo Moon autonomous robotaxis over the next three years, and has even managed to drive down the expense of per-unit production to around a third of what it costs to manufacture "average Level 4 autonomous vehicles," according to Baidu – at RMB 480,000 (~US$75,000) instead of the more usual RMB 1.5 million (over $230,000) or higher.
Apollo Moon is Baidu's fifth generation of robotaxi, and is said to represent a tenfold improvement on previous generations of the technology. It's based on the Alpha-T five-seater electric crossover from Arcfox for the promise of zero tailpipe emissions ride hailing. Dual electric motors combine to produce 218 hp (~160 kW), while a 93.6-kWh battery offers around 650 km (over 400 miles) of per-charge range. The electric robotaxi is reported to have a projected operating cycle of five years.
Features for the robotaxi include dynamic vehicle ID authentication, rear passenger status detection, AI voice assistant, seatbelt reminder for passengers, climate control via a mobile app, independent lock controls for all four doors, and an animated electronic display mounted to the sunroof that displays the status of the vehicle.
The vehicle boasts customized LiDAR developed with Hesai Technology, and will run on ANP-Robotaxi pilot navigation architecture. The sensor suite is actually made up of two of these LiDARs, together with 12 cameras, five radars, and 12 ultrasonic sensors. There's 800 TOPS of computing power, and redundancy systems built in, and 5G remote driving and V2X implementation will also be supported.
After securing nearly 3,000 patents, being awarded almost 250 road testing licenses, and clocking up more than 12 million test kilometers with its Apollo vehicle program, Baidu launched China's first paid robotaxi service earlier this year, and is currently starting to roll out ride-hailing services in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chongqing, and other cities in China. The video below has more.