Beijing- Baidu China’s tech giant told CNBC this week that it could start collecting robotaxi fares in parts of Beijing, marking a major step towards building an unmanned taxi business.
Regulatory approval to support China’s Robotaxi is due to US local governments moving in a similar direction.
But the move in Beijing is even more important.
Approval from the Chinese capital is the first time such a big city in China has allowed businesses to charge the public a robotaxi fare.
Wei Dong, vice president and chief security operations officer for Baidu’s Intelligent Driving Group, told CNBC in an exclusive interview.
He hopes these cities will act later this year or early next year.
Starting Thursday, Baidu’s Apollo unit, which operates the Robotaxi business, will be able to collect fares from passengers using one of 67 self-driving cars at the suburb of Beijing.
The company didn’t disclose the exact price, but said the fare was comparable to the premium-level fare available through apps such as: Didi, Can cost twice as much as a regular vehicle.
Safety staff will board an autonomous robotaxi in Beijing, China, on October 13, 2020, a few days after Baidu began commissioning the Apollo Robotaxi.
Zhao Jing | Visual China Group | Getty Images
Baidu has been offering free robotaxi rides in Yizhuang since October 2020. As of Wednesday, the robotaxi app, branded “Luobo Kuaipao,” showed a sample fare of 34 yuan ($ 5.31) on a 3 km (1.86 mile) ride from Sam’s Club. To the nearby subway station at Yizhuang.
The same route costs about 14 yuan ($ 2.19) via Diddy’s basic express car service. Diddy’s sample premium level fare on the same route is 27 yuan.
So far, the novelty of free self-driving taxis has attracted many regular users in Yizhuang. According to Wei, more than 20,000 users each ride at least 10 times a month. It’s unclear how many people will continue to use this service when they have to pay, but Wei aims to validate an additional 100 Robotaxi vehicles each year.
From the United States to China, Robotaxi is gaining momentum with regulators who hold the key to enabling self-driving cars for the general public.
Self-driving taxi operator like Alphabet Waymo has tested similar products in the United States, primarily California and Arizona. Waymo can charge the public for fares in parts of Phoenix, and its self-driving cars do not require a safe driver.
November 16th AlibabaSupported self-driving company AutoX claimed that a fully unmanned robotaxi is currently operating at 168 square kilometers (65 square miles) in the Tsuboshan district of southern Shenzhen, China’s largest single region. .. AutoX said it started in January to allow the general public to sign up for Robotaxi vehicles. I didn’t immediately know if it would cost me to ride.
Baidu’s commercial self-driving car license covers an area of 60 square kilometers, including the town called Yizhuang, home of many companies, such as JD.com’s headquarters. The area is about a 30-minute drive south of central Beijing.
The Beijing Municipal Government has also made Yuso a self-driving test site by allowing companies to try projects there. These include JD’s unmanned delivery vehicles and Baidu’s Robotaxi vehicles.
Last week, Baidu CEO Robin Li said the company Expand Apollo Go robotaxi services to 65 cities by 2025 and 100 cities by 2030. This is currently increasing from 5 cities.
The company also announced that the cost of manufacturing next-generation Robotaxi vehicles will be half that of the previous generation. These models are co-branded with three electric vehicle manufacturers: Chinese startup WM Motor, state-owned GAC spin-off Aion, and state-owned BAIC Group Arcfox.
In June, Baidu and BAIC claimed to be able to build 1,000 self-driving cars. 480,000 yuan ($ 75,000), respectively For an average of 1 million yuan for self-driving cars.
Wei joined Baidu’s Intelligent Driving Group in May after working for Shouqi Limousine & Chauffeur for seven years. The company operates a high-end version of Didi.
He said Baidu’s strategy for building a robotaxi business is to reduce the cost of self-driving technology and target specific user scenarios.
Rather than taking full advantage of lidar technology, which requires expensive sensors to create detailed maps before Robotaxi works, Wei generally uses algorithms to increase the efficient use of hardware. I talked about what to do.
On the consumer side, Wei said Apollo isn’t just a street view, but a way to give users an experience that goes beyond just transportation, such as displaying the streets of Beijing 20 years ago in a car window. He said he would focus.
Another strategy is to find a way to use Robotaxi for non-travel functions such as medical spaces and public libraries.
Apollo is just one part of Baidu, but its development is in line with the CEO’s attempt to convince investors that the company’s future exists in related areas such as artificial intelligence and autonomous driving.
The company’s highest revenue growth in the third quarter was “non-online marketing revenue”, up 76% year-on-year to 5.2 billion yuan ($ 806 million). Baidu attributed this growth to the demand for cloud computing and other AI businesses.
— CNBC Arjun Kharpal Contributed to this report.
Baidu launches robotaxi business after Beijing fare approval
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