Baidu and Pony.ai become the first robotaxi services to operate without a safety driver in Beijing


Baidu and Pony.ai have been allowed to operate their self-driving safety driverless vehicles in Beijing, a first for robotaxi services in China (via CNBC). Although both companies no longer require a staff member in the driver’s seat, they will still need a supervisor present somewhere in the vehicle.

Baidu and Pony.ai cannot yet operate in the whole city of Beijing – they are limited to an area of ​​60 square kilometers (23.1 square miles) in Yizhuang, Beijing, which is home to around 300,000 people. While Baidu can only deploy 10 autonomous vehicles in the region, CNBC reports that Pony.ai can only operate four. The two companies plan to increase the number of vehicles on the road (with Baidu shooting 30), but it’s unclear how soon that will happen.

Beijing authorities began allowing Baidu and Pony.ai to charge for their robotaxi services in Beijing’s Yizhuang district last November, although the city initially required both services to have a safety driver behind the wheel. According to TechCrunchriders can call the robotaxi service through Baidu’s Apollo Go app from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., or with Pony.ai’s PonyPilot Plus app from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Last week, Toyota-backed Pony.ai became the first autonomous carmaker to obtain a taxi license in China. It has received permission to operate 100 vehicles in Nansha, Guangzhou, and says a security driver will be on board for a short time. Pony.ai was also allowed to test its self-driving safety driverless vehicles in three California cities, but that license was suspended after one of its cars collided with a central divider.

Baidu, the company behind the huge Chinese search engine of the same name, was also allowed to test its driverless safety vehicles in Sunnyvale, California. It joins a number of other autonomous vehicle companies, like Waymo and Cruise, which can operate fully driverless vehicles on the streets of California.


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