Baidu has received driverless robotaxi permits from southwest Chongqing Municipality and the central city of Wuhan.
Chinese search engine giant Baidu has won permission to operate fully driverless robotaxi services in two Chinese cities, the first of its kind in the country. The permits were granted by the southwest municipality of Chongqing and the central city of Wuhan, allowing commercial robotaxis to provide rides to the public without a human safety driver in the car.
With this development, Baidu said they mark a “turning point” in China’s self-driving policy-making. “These permits have deep significance for the industry,” Wei Dong, director of safety operations at Baidu’s smart driving group, told Reuters in an interview. “If we think of space exploration, this moment is like landing on the moon.”
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Initially, Baidu will deploy a batch of five paid robotaxis in each city, where they will be allowed to operate in designated areas from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Wuhan and 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in Chongqing. The service areas cover 30 km2 in Yongchuan District in Chongqing and 13 km2 in Wuhan Economic and Technological Development Zone.
The search engine giant is also in talks with local governments in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen to secure licenses within a year to test fully driverless, unpaid robotaxis in those cities. This is in line with China’s efforts to speed up testing and licensing of self-driving vehicles, as U.S. regulators are also advancing self-driving policies that set milestones.
In January, self-driving company Cruise received a permit from the California Public Utilities Commission, allowing it to offer paid, fully driverless rides from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. on select streets in San Francisco. On the other hand, Baidu’s Apollo Go robotaxi service has made more than 1 million rides in 10 Chinese cities since its launch in 2020.
So far, the company hasn’t reported any issues with the service and hasn’t provided a breakdown of the amount invested in the project.
Date of first publication: Aug 08, 2022, 10:53 a.m. IST