Internet company Baidu said it has secured the first permits in China to offer commercial fully driverless robotaxi services to the public on open roads. Its Apollo Go ride-hailing service has been authorised to collect fares for robotaxi rides - without human drivers in the car - in specific districts in Chongqing and Wuhan.
The regulatory decision marks "a key turning point for the future of mobility in China, leading to an eventual expansion of driverless ride-hailing services to paying users across the country," Baidu said.
Having received the permits, Baidu plans to provide fully driverless robotaxi services in the designated areas in Wuhan from 9 am to 5 pm, and Chongqing from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm, with five Apollo robotaxis operating in each city. The areas of service cover 13 square kilometers in the Wuhan Economic & Technological Development Zone, and 30 square kilometers in Chongqing's Yongchuan District.
Baidu said its autonomous driving system is supplemented by monitoring redundancy and remote driving capability (enabled by a 5G cellular connection) and a robust safety operation system.
Baidu said Apollo Go is the world's largest robotaxi service provider, recently reaching the milestone of more than one million orders. Source: Baidu statement