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Business & Finance

Baidu launches China’s first self-driving taxi service

  • These taxis have been named Apollo ‘robotaxis’ and around 10 of them have been deployed in an area of 3 square kilometers around Shougang Park in western Beijing.
  • Each Apollo robotaxi ride costs about 30 yuan (Rs. 712). Passengers aged between 18 and 60 are allowed in these autonomous taxis.
Published May 3, 2021
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Chinese tech giant Baidu has launched the world’s first self-driving taxis in China, becoming the first company to successfully commercialize the concept.

Unlike the previous public demonstration, this one didn’t involve a safety driver behind the steering wheel. The car only had a safety member in the front passenger seat to deal with any emergency situations.

These taxis have been named Apollo ‘robotaxis’ and around 10 of them have been deployed in an area of 3 square kilometers around Shougang Park in western Beijing to pick up and drop people to and from the park.

Each Apollo robotaxi ride costs about 30 yuan (Rs. 712). Passengers aged between 18 and 60 are allowed in these autonomous taxis.

Users can book 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.

The self-driving cars pull brakes when jaywalkers or curious tourists come too close for photos. However, a Chinese couple that works in the AI industry commented that they had a smooth riding experience in these taxis.

“I would recommend people experience this. There is a strong sense of technology because nobody is in the driver’s seat.”

Inspired by the ride, the couple is even considering buying a driver-less car for their personal use.

Another rider was cautious about how autonomous cars would react to rash drivers as since road behavior can often be complex and erratic.

“We’ve all had experienced such as other cars jumping the queue or making a sudden lane change. People have emotions while robots don’t, at least at present. The robots may not be able to deal with such changes.”

However, the vice president and general manager of autonomous driving technology at Baidu, Yunpeng Wang, was jubilant on the development.

"Introducing unmanned services is an indispensable stage for the commercialization of autonomous driving," he said. Mr. Wang added:

“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.”

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