Beijing’s first “robotaxis” enters service, Auto News, ET Auto

The vehicles can only carry two passengers at a time and are confined to the south of Yizhuang City.

BEIJING:

It looks like a normal car, but the white curbside cab has no one to drive it and communicates with customers digitally to get directions and take payment.

Beijing this week approved its first autonomous taxis for commercial use, bringing dozens of so-called “robotaxis” to the streets of the Chinese capital.

The vehicles can only carry two passengers at a time and are confined to the south of Yizhuang City.

An employee of the taxi company is also seated in the front of the car in case a sudden intervention is required, but the vehicle drives by itself.

The deployment is a significant step forward for the driverless ambitions of Chinese tech giant Baidu and start-up Pony.ai, which were given the green light to deploy the cars on Thursday.

But it should be years before taxis fully function without human intervention, due to regulations and safety requirements.

The developers hope that Chinese consumers, who have embraced e-commerce, online payments and other digital solutions, will quickly get used to the feeling of traveling in a car without a driver.

Pony.ai co-founder Peng Jun said the key to moving the industry forward is “politics, technology and public acceptance.”

More than 500,000 trips have already been made in Pony.ai’s robotaxis in the early stages of testing, the Toyota-backed start-up said.

Passengers using Baidu’s “Apollo Go” cars must download an app called “Luobo kuaipao” – which means “radish race” – and can hail a cab at any of the 600 pickup and drop-off points.

Sixty-seven Baidu taxis operate on Beijing’s roads and charge just over two yuan ($ 0.30) for a 5.9 kilometer (3.66 mile) trip.

AutoX, the Alibaba-backed start-up and ride-sharing giant DiDi Chuxing, have also run robotaxi pilot projects in cities across the country.

Read also:

Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon announced the Seoul Self-driving Vision 2030 plan to accelerate the commercialization of self-driving cars by 2026 and build infrastructure throughout Seoul.

The leading South Korean automaker this week unveiled its plan at the 2021 Seoul Mobility Show to begin testing the RoboRide service using its Level 4 autonomous vehicle on the streets of a designated area of ​​downtown the capital.


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