Baidu autonomous taxis now available to the public in Shanghai, local reports show

Chinese tech giant Baidu has opened its autonomous robotaxi Apollo Go to the public on the streets of Shanghai, according to state media.

The Shanghai Daily’s Shine website reported that passengers can hail one of the self-driving taxis at around 150 stations in the Jiading district, a residential and commercial part of Shanghai. As the system is currently in the testing phase, the service is free and will run daily from 9:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. via Baidu’s own ridesharing app.

The fleet uses Hongqi electric SUVs based on vehicles developed by Baidu and automaker FAW – maker of the Hongqi L5 limousine beloved by Communist Party officials, including Premier Xi Jinping.

Baidu is the Chinese equivalent of Google, a large company specializing in Internet-related services including search engines, mapping and, more recently, artificial intelligence.

According to the company, its self-driving taxis feature a combination of lidar, radar, cameras and GPS – similar to configurations used by other autonomous driving technology companies such as Waymo – making them capable of level range. 4. This would mean that in most cases the vehicle does not require human interaction and can be driven entirely. A human overseer will nevertheless be on stand-by at all times during the Shanghai trials.

Baidu says that in August, its autonomous vehicles racked up more than 8.7 million kilometers of testing. Its goal is to put around two hundred vehicles on Shanghai’s roads in the near future and says it is testing or deploying five hundred vehicles in thirty cities.

Although the company has a license to test autonomous vehicles in California, it has so far focused exclusively on China, with Shanghai being the fifth city in which the Apollo Go service has been deployed after Guangzhou, Changsha, Cangzhou and Beijing – all cities with over 6.5 million inhabitants.

Baidu is said to have extended its service to Beijing and began operating a fully driverless robotaxis with an operator sitting in the passenger seat rather than at the wheel last April to reassure passengers. Journeys in Beijing cost 30 yuan (around £ 3.40), although elsewhere journeys remain free, as the system is still in the testing phase.

Baidu, which has been working on autonomous driving technology since 2013 and has been operating its Apollo Go program since 2017, is looking to scale up its autonomous driving operations massively in the coming years with the hope of deploying around 3,000 robotaxis in the next two years. years. three years.

Reports from last June said the company had formed a partnership with BAIC carmaker’s EV brand, Arcfox, to develop the Apollo Moon, a relatively inexpensive, mass-produced autonomous robotaxi, which is expected to cost around £ 54,000.

Baidu would also invest heavily in the infrastructure it needs to successfully operate its autonomous vehicle network, including vehicle-to-X technology that uses sensors in individual cars to send information to the internet cloud allowing vehicles to communicate. between them on things such as the road. conditions and traffic jams.

In theory, this will allow its network of self-driving taxis to operate more efficiently, offsetting the huge costs of investing in the technology.

Shine belongs to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and is authorized by the Shanghai Committee of the CCP.