Baidu Apollo launches autonomous taxis in Beijing
The service is available now and was launched in Shougang Park, one of the venues of the 2022 Winter Olympics
Fully driverless taxi services have been just around the corner for several years now. There have been trials of them in major urban centres all across the world, chief among them being Waymo's trial in Phoenix, Arizona. It seems like the next phase of the autonomous taxi revolution is now starting to take shape, as Chinese company Baidu Apollo has launched an autonomous taxi service in Beijing!
The service went live on May 2 2021 and is China's first paid autonomous vehicle service. The service was launched in Beijing's Shougang Park, one of the venues of the 2022 Winter Olympics, and it's expected that the service will form a major part of getting people to and from the events held there. This will include athletes and staff as well as spectators. Customers can hail a taxi via Baidu's proprietary Apollo Go app, which uses features including virtual reality navigation and remote car honking to help customers locate their ride. To unlock the taxis, customers will be required to scan a QR code and (until pandemic restrictions are over) a health code to verify their identity and help reduce the spread of the pandemic.
Image: Baidu, Inc.
Once the customer's in the vehicle and has clicked the "start the journey" button, the vehicle will go through various different safety checks to make sure that the seat belts are fastened and the doors are shut. The journey won't start until all the safety checks are completed. The robotaxis won't have a safety driver behind the steering wheel (a major landmark in commercial autonomous vehicle operations), but a 5G Remote Driving Service will be present at all times during the journey in case a human operator needs to remotely access the vehicle.
"Introducing unmanned services is an indispensable stage for the commercialization of autonomous driving. 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," Yunpeng Wang, vice president and general manager of autonomous driving technology at Baidu, said about the introduction of the new Beijing robotaxis.
"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," he further explained. "The commercialization of autonomous driving can alleviate congestion effectively and help to reach the peak carbon dioxide emissions and achieve carbon neutrality in China."