Baidu launches driverless taxi service in China – to cover 30 sq km in Chongqing, 15 sq km in Wuhan –

Chinese artificial intelligence and search engine firm Baidu has been given approval by the Chinese government to launch its driverless taxi service in China next week, according to the company.

Dubbed Apollo Go, the autonomous ride-hailing division Baidu has been granted licenses for its robotaxis to operate in Chongqing and Wuhan without human drivers present inside the vehicles, Baidu said. Five robotaxis will be deployed in each of the two cities, said Baidu according to SCMP.

In Chongqing with 30 million residents, the robotaxi service will operate from 9:30am to 4:30pm, while the fleet in Wuhan will operate from 9am to 5pm. The service in Chongqing will cover an area of 30 square km in the Yongchuan district, while the service for Wuhan will cover 13 square km in the Wuhan Economic and Technological Development Zone, according to the South China Morning Post.

“We believe these permits are a key milestone on the path to the inflection point where the industry can finally roll out fully autonomous driving services at scale,” chief safety operation officer at the Baidu intelligent driving group, Wei Dong said.

The authorities in China are typically “very conservative”, and are often not willing to give approval for technological innovations and innovative products, Unity Asset Management partner Cao Hua was quoted as saying.

Baidu has launched its autonomous taxi service in Beijing in May 2021, though unlike the service that will be rolled out for Chongqing and Wuhan, the operation in Beijing that was fully launched in April this year retained a human security officer in the vehicle’s driver seat in case of any emergency, SCMP wrote.

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