Baidu Secures Permit to Become First Fully Driverless Taxi Service Provider in Beijing 

UTC by Tolu Ajiboye · 3 min read
Baidu Secures Permit to Become First Fully Driverless Taxi Service Provider in Beijing 
Photo: Depositphotos

With the Beijing development, Baidu can now operate a driverless taxi service in three Chinese cities, including Wuhan and Chongqing.

Chinese tech giant Baidu has secured the right to offer the first fully driverless taxi service in China’s capital, Beijing. On Friday, the Beijing-based company made the announcement, which also included part of its logistical rollout. Baidu said its Apollo Go service would deploy 10 fully driverless cars in a technology park developed by Beijing’s government.

Apollo Go currently has vehicles operating over 20 rides per day in the Yizhuang Economic Development Zone. The Yizhuang Economic Development Zone is one of China’s autonomous driving cradles.

In last year’s fourth quarter, Apollo Go completed 561,000 rides, representing a 162% increase year-over-year (YoY). Furthermore, the platform’s cumulative number of rides carried out surpassed two million at the end of January. This development makes Baidu the largest autonomous ride-hailing service provider in the world. This year, the Chinese tech powerhouse also seeks to establish the world’s largest fully driverless ride-hailing area.

The Baidu driverless taxi permit in Beijing marks a significant step forward from last December. At the time, Baidu received a permit to test the service as the company sought to diversify beyond its bread-and-butter internet search engine service. The Chinese multinational tech company has focused on autonomous driving technologies over the last five years.

Expanded Baidu Wuhan Driverless Taxi Operability

In late December, Baidu began offering autonomous nighttime taxis in the Chinese city of Wuhan. The scheme was a step up from the daytime operations the company previously operated in the city. Baidu explained that the autonomous service, which ran from 7 am to 11 pm, would cover around one million customers.

In a previous statement, Baidu also touched on its autonomous vehicle visual-language model for identifying unseen objects in long-tail scenarios. According to the tech giant, “the model will enable autonomous vehicles to quickly make sense of an unseen object, such as special vehicle (fire truck, ambulance) recognition, plastic bag misdetection, and others. In addition, Baidu’s autonomous driving perception model – a sub-model of the WenXin Big Model – leveraging more than 1 billion parameters, is able to dramatically improve the generalization potential of autonomous driving perception.”

As it stands, Baidu will operate driverless robotaxi services in three Chinese cities – Beijing, Wuhan, and Chongqing.

ChatGPT Rival

In other recent Baidu news, the company’s shares dropped 6% after its CEO, Robin Li, unveiled an AI chatbot rivaling ChatGPT. Most of the negative reaction was channeled at the ‘pre-recorded’ presentation format of the unveiling.

Li touted the benefits of the Chinese-language ChatGPT initiative. According to him, “its extremely strong ability to comprehend and express language will allow any company to get closer to their customers. It’s an opportunity for every company, and it will even have an impact on every single person.”

Despite admitting some inherent errors in the tech’s current functionality, the Baidu CEO noted the AI bot is “advancing very fast.”

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