What is being called the first paid autonomous vehicle ride-hailing service will begin on May 2 in Beijing, China using driverless robotaxis from Chinese internet giant Baidu Inc.
The fully autonomous Apollog Go Robotaxi service will have no safety driver behind the steering wheel and will be launched in Beijing’s Shougang Park—one of the venues for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. The robotaxi service will also be used to transport visitors to the games.
At Beijing Shougang Park, the robotaxis will transport users to sport halls, work areas, coffee shops and hotels and will shuttle athletes and staff during the Olympics.
"Introducing unmanned services is an indispensable stage for the commercialization of autonomous driving,” said Yunpeng Wang, vice president and general manager of autonomous driving technology at Baidu. “Today, we are opening the fully driverless robotaxi services in Beijing for the public, which we achieved only after conducting countless scalable driverless tests in many cities over a long period of time.”
How it works
Through the Apollo Go App, users can locate a vehicle in the vicinity and hail a driverless ride in a system of unmanned self-service processes. The vehicles will include virtual reality navigation and remote car honking to help users identify the location of the car. Users scan a QR code and health code on the car for identity verification and pandemic prevention purposes.
When boarding the vehicle, users click a button and before traveling the car ensures that seat belts are fastened and doors are shut. Once the trip begins, a 5G remote driving service is present at all times to allow human operators to remotely access the vehicles in the case of exceptional emergencies.
"In the future, Baidu Apollo will launch driverless robotaxis in more cities, enabling the public to access greener, low-carbon and convenient travel services, while continuing to improve the unmanned service process and user experience," Wang said. "The commercialization of autonomous driving can alleviate congestion effectively and help to reach the peak carbon dioxide emissions and achieve carbon neutrality in China."
Baidu started a pilot robotaxi project in Beijing in October of last year servicing an area of 435 miles with nearly 100 pick-up and drop-off stations covering the residential and business areas in Yizhuang, Haidian and Shunyi districts. Recently, the Baidu Apollo announced the completion of more than 10 million kilometers of road testing for autonomous driving. Baidu has been granted 2,900 patents for intelligent driving and 221 test drive licenses, among which 179 are to test self-driving cars for carrying passengers.
Additionally, the company launched a multi-modal self-driving mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) for a fleet of robotaxis and robobuses for smart on-demand transportation service in Guangzhou, China. In this pilot, more than 40 self-driving cars will be used in the Guangzhou region including Baidu’s Apolong, Apollocop and Species Vehicle.