Baidu launches China's first paid robotaxi service
Chinese technology giant Baidu has launched what is says is the country's first commercial robotaxi service, which will see its Apollo self-driving vehicles shuttle paying customers around Beijing's Shougang Park without a safety driver onboard. The move follows trials in the area last year, with the company hoping to expand to other cities across the country in the near future.
The launch of Baidu Apollo's robotaxi service comes after the extensive testing of the company's autonomous vehicles, which were given the green light for testing on Beijing's roads last year without a safety driver onboard. The company says these cars have now completed more than 10 million km (6.2 million miles) of road-testing, and is now taking what it sees as key steps towards commercialization.
Called the 5G Remote Driving Service, users will be able to hail a ride using the Apollo Go smartphone app, and then scan a QR code to verify their identity and enter the car. A "Start the Journey" button can then be used to kick off the ride, with the vehicle only taking off when the doors are shut and the seat belts are fastened.
While there will be no safety drivers onboard, operators will be able to access the car remotely in the case of an emergency. Other than that, Baidu says the robotaxis will transport users to sports halls, work areas, coffee shops and hotels around Beijing Shougang Park, which will serve as one of the venues for the 2022 Winter Olympics. Baidu says visitors in town for the games will be able to hail its robotaxis as part of regular transport for the event.
While Baidu might be the first to launch a paid autonomous vehicle service in China, others seemingly won't be far behind. Competitor AutoX recently launched a fully driverless taxi fleet in Shenzhen's megacity as part of its ongoing testing and development, though this requires users to register for a pilot program and to use membership credits to cover their rides.
"Introducing unmanned services is an indispensable stage for the commercialization of autonomous driving," says Yunpeng Wang, vice president and general manager of autonomous driving technology at Baidu. "Today, we are opening the fully driverless robotaxi services in Beijing for the public, which we achieved only after conducting countless scalable driverless tests in many cities over a long period of time."
Source: Baidu via PRNewswire