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What you need to know: This weblog captures key data points about the global telecoms industry. I use it as an electronic notebook to support my work for Pringle Media.

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Baidu Hails Improving Self Driving Economics

Baidu reported that its self-driving taxi service Apollo Go provided about 826,000 rides to the public in the first quarter of 2024, marking a 25% year-over-year increase. In the first quarter, the rides provided by fully driverless vehicles accounted for over 55% of total rides in Wuhan, which is up from 45% in the fourth quarter of 2023. "This figure continues to rise, exceeding 70% in April, with expectations of sustained rapid growth ahead and reaching 100% in the coming quarters," added Robin Li,  CEO of Baidu.

Baidu claimed that in Wuhan "Apollo Go is gradually becoming an integral part of the city's transportation network." In the past year, Apollo Go's fully driverless fleet in Wuhan has grown threefold, reaching about 300 vehicles today. It plans to increase that number to 1,000 vehicles by the end of 2024.

As it has won the trust of local government, Apollo Go has more than doubled its operational area in Wuhan from a quarter ago, and is now serving a population of over seven million in the city. Its vehicles started to operate 24/7 in Wuhan in early March.

To significantly reduce hardware depreciation costs, Baidu plans to deploy RT6, its sixth generation robotaxi, in its Wuhan Apollo Go operation this year. Adopting a battery swapping solution, the mass production price for RT6 excluding battery is below 30,000 US dollars, according to Baidu. "With the scaling of driverless operations and continuous improvement of cost structure, we believe Apollo Go will achieve operational unit economics breakeven in Wuhan in the near future," added Li.

Baidu is also making its autonomous driving solution, which is solely reliant on vision, available to other automakers.  "This allows us to make advanced autonomous driving attainable across a broad spectrum of passenger vehicles from high-end to economy models priced as low as 150,000 yuan, and it serves as another proof of our technology leadership," Li explained. Baidu said that its ASD technology can now effectively navigate complex, urban environments across more than 100 cities in China and it has plans to expand in to hundreds of cities in the coming months.  Source: Baidu earnings call

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