People in Beijing are now able to call for a driverless taxi to ferry them around, the first paid service of its kind in China.
Baidu, Inc. recently announced that its Apollo Go Robotaxi service has become fully open for public use in Beijing’s Shougang Park on 2 May 2021. Additionally, the company’s spokesperson stated that the Apollo Go Robotaxi service will cost only 30 yuan (US$4.60) per ride.
The company has also planned for its robotaxi service to be used in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games, where the self-driving vehicles will be used to transport visitors, athletes and staff to the games.
Baidu has previously started its robotaxi service in two other Chinese cities before Beijing, according to the company’s announcement of its third-quarter 2020 revenue results. In another revenue results report dated 17 February 2021, the company stated that its robotaxi and robobus service has serviced over 210,000 rides as of December 2020.
People who are interested in riding one of Baidu’s driverless taxis may hail for a nearby unit using the Apollo Go App. The app also comes with features that allow people to track their rides, a remote car honk and virtual reality navigation. To unlock the robotaxi, passengers are required to scan a QR code and health code for identity verification and pandemic prevention purposes.
Tapping on the “Start the Journey” button upon boarding the robotaxi will start a series of checks that the vehicle will go through to ensure passenger safety. The car will ensure that seatbelts are fastened and the doors are shut before beginning the trip. Although the robotaxi does not come with a driver, a human operator can remotely control the vehicle over 5G in case of an emergency.
Baidu’s Vice President and General Manager of Autonomous Driving Technology, Yunpeng Wang hopes that the company’s robotaxis can help achieve carbon neutrality in China and that its automated vehicles will be launched in more cities in the future. He also added that the launch of more driverless cars will provide the public with access to “greener, low-carbon and convenient travel services” while continuing to improve user experience and unmanned service process.
Baidu isn’t the only company working on driverless taxis. AutoX, backed by retail giant Alibaba, was credited to be the first company to test unmanned vehicles in China when it launched 25 automated vehicles on public roads. The only difference between it and Baidu is that AutoX’s cars are not able to be taken over by any remote operator.
Written by John Paul Joaquin