Baidu Begins Paid Robotaxi Service In China With No Employee Aboard

Baidu BIDU has disclosed that they have been granted permits to run a paid Robotaxi company in China without a human safety driver in the vehicle. In the past, they operated with humans either behind the steering wheel or in the passenger seat. Baidu promises to immediately begin activities within Chongqing and Wuhan two city centers in central China. They have operated previously in conjunction with the passenger’s seat provider in a few instances in various east Chinese cities. The service will be limited to approximately 9-5 in a 13 square kilometer region in Wuhan and the 30 square km area within Chongqing. Yongchuan District of Chongqing. The area in Wuhan is a distinct area with 321km of roads that are approved and 106km of them come with unique 5G that allows remote monitoring at a low latency and remote control of vehicles.

The most notable aspect is eliminating the human driver from the vehicle. For those who aren’t part of the public, it isn’t easy to gauge the development of a robocar group. Everybody makes beautiful videos of their vehicles taking rides and solving various issues. The problem is, you can create such a video at any stage of development, provided you pick the right things to present. In this way, we can judge teams on what risks they’re willing to accept and the amount of employees they allow to observe all aspects of the work.

The choice to use no human inside the vehicle indicates that there was a massive presentation by the team to the board, where they demonstrated that the car was safe enough to allow release using this method and with members of the public. No one to steer or make an emergency stop if the need arises. This suggests that the team presented a particular case, and the quality of the vehicle is excellent. Or it could be that the team is reckless, as we’ll discover when we know. Baidu boasts 32 million kilometers of operations as of today. Baidu claims that, while remote monitoring is available, the fleet comprises around 3 vehicles for each remote monitor. Therefore it’s not a 1:1 ratio.

The vehicles have to pick up and dropped off at designated locations instead of anywhere there’s a free curb like human drivers do. “PuDo” is an issue that all teams haven’t solved. (Cruise was in the news for doing the PuDo on the street without stopping, even though this is a common practice among taxis.)

Baidu has also recently announced their new custom robotaxi vehicle that needs the steering wheel for legal reasons but has been made easy to take off later.

Another factor in the team’s self-evaluation of how far they’ve come is whether they’ll let people view random rides. Ultimately, it’s not that difficult to let guests from the media along an already-planned and thoroughly established route. If you permit people to travel anywhere anytime, it shows confidence that this will be successful. Specific teams require users to accept NDAs before they can ride and not record videos. More confident teams have permitted anyone to publish the videos. This is a sign that Baidu’s tests have confirmed that their vehicle isn’t going to embarrass them on the road in these videos. Baidu claims that riders can create and release their trips’ videos, which is why they’ll be fascinating to watch.

It’s not enough to permit this. Tesla TSLA can be one of the most open and has allowed more than 100,000 of its customers to test their driving prototypes, including me. They do not permit operation without supervision, of course. While allowing that, Tesla has revealed that its system is inferior and requires maintenance. It does not get top marks for its quality. However, it is praised for allowing us to see the quality. If they don’t let us look at the rate, it might be viewed as shoddy as Tesla.

In a small way, it also means that they’ve convinced regulators about that. However, the reality is that regulators aren’t competent enough to assess the reliability of a robocar. Teams are also working out the best way to achieve this. However, they are the only ones with awareness. What they do is what their assessments have revealed.

In the USA, Waymo has been operating vehicles in Arizona without any supervising driver for some time. In recent times, Cruise began such operations in a restricted part of downtown SF, and Waymo also started operations throughout the night. However, it hasn’t yet wholly uncrewed service.

The capability to charge money isn’t a viable option, but it has been widely praised. There is no way to operate these services in a way that is a business at this point. Charges for money allow them to observe how people react to the service when they need to pay for it and test different kinds of expenses. Today, most companies are charging like or lower than Uber UBER. Robotaxi services will eventually be slightly less than Uber and likely use a different pricing structure, not simply a per-mile price. Baidu Apollo taxi service is 16 yuan, plus 2.8 per mile, similar to taxis driven by humans in some regions of China.

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Adam Collins
Adam writes about technology, business and economics. With master's degree in Economics, he's presented six papers in international conferences. As a solivagant in the constant state of fernweh, curiosity is the main weapon in his arsenal.

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