Tolu is a cryptocurrency and blockchain enthusiast based in Lagos. He likes to demystify crypto stories to the bare basics so that anyone anywhere can understand without too much background knowledge. When he's not neck-deep in crypto stories, Tolu enjoys music, loves to sing and is an avid movie lover.
Search engine behemoth Baidu has been granted official permission to roll out its driverless commercial robotaxis in Wuhan and Chongqing.
Baidu appears set to operate fully driverless commercial robotaxis in two Chinese cities – Wuhan and Chongqing. The Chinese search engine giant and artificial intelligence (AI) company recently announced that it now has permits for the taxis. Baidu’s robotaxis will be the first Chinese offering that does not require the presence of a human safety driver.
Speaking on the approval, Baidu’s Intelligent Driving Group chief safety operation officer Wei Dong, said:
“These permits have deep significance for the industry. If we think of the exploration of space, this moment is equal to landing on the moon.”
Baidu’s license to operate the autonomous commercial vehicles service comes into effect on Monday. However, there are some provisos by which the Chinese multinational tech company must abide. The driverless automobiles can ferry passengers within the two designated cities during daytime hours. This implies that the Baidu service will operate from 9 am to 5 pm in Wuhan, and from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm in Chongqing. Furthermore, the pre-stipulated coverable distances are 13 square kilometers in Wuhan’s Economic & Technological Development Zone and 30 square kilometers in Chongqing’s Yongchuan District. Baidu will initially deploy a fleet of five Apollo 5th generation robotaxis to each of the designated cities.
More on Baidu’s Fully Driverless Robotaxis Rollout
Both designated cities for Baidu’s self-driving taxi service feature many advantages for better enablement. For instance, both zones do not have dense populations and feature numerous new wide roads for easier autonomous navigation. In addition, both the cities of Wuhan and Chongqing offer favorable regulatory and technological environments for Baidu’s service launch. For example, Wuhan’s Economic & Technological Development Zone has been overhauled in the last year to support AV testing and operations. In addition, Chongqing’s Yongchuan District has also been a pilot zone for autonomous driving and has seen extensive test driving.
Baidu has also reportedly been testing its vehicles in the US for a while now and may eventually rival the likes of Waymo and Cruise.
Being the first company in China to obtain autonomous driving permits, Baidu says its driverless taxis have multiple safety measures. These measures are designed to back up the robotaxis core self-driving mechanism. They include monitoring redundancy, remote driving capability, and a safety operation system.
Baidu also commented on the advent of its driverless commercial robotaxis as a watershed moment for China’s autonomous driving policy-making. As Dong put it:
“This is a tremendous qualitative change. We believe these permits are a key milestone on the path to the inflection point when the industry can finally roll out fully autonomous driving services at scale.”
Baidu is also in talks with local governments in Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen on obtaining licenses within a year. The internet-related services and tech specialist also looks to roll out its self-driving services there.
Meanwhile, Baidu’s electric vehicle (EV) arm Jidu Auto plans to meet a delivery target of 800,000 robot cars by 2028.