Chinese search engine giant Baidu has started public testing of its robotaxi Apollo Go mobile platform in Shanghai, marking the company’s continued expansion of its presence in China.
While Baidu says its robotaxis has reached Level 4 capabilities, a human security operator will be present at all rides, open to the public from Sunday, in order to comply with local regulations. The Society of Automotive Engineers defines an L4 autonomous car as a car that does not require human interaction in most cases and can only operate in limited areas. Companies like Waymo, Cruise, Motional, Pony.AI, and Yandex all use a similar combination of lidar, radar, cameras, and GPS to build a vehicle brain capable of L4 range.
Shanghai’s fleet will consist of Baidu’s Hongqi electric vehicles, its fourth-generation autonomous vehicles produced with FAW. The company did not disclose the number of vehicles it initially launched, but a spokesperson for Baidu told TechCrunch that the goal is to reach around 200 vehicles in Shanghai. In total, Baidu says it is publicly testing or deploying around 500 AVs in 30 cities.
Although Baidu has a license to test its driverless technology in California, it has yet to deploy any services and instead devotes most of its resources to scaling in China. There is a huge increase in demand for in-home robotaxi services, a company spokesperson said. Baidu therefore focuses on improving its technology, building many vehicles and ensuring a good user experience. Shanghai is the fifth city where the Apollo Go robotaxi service is open to the public, including Changsha, Cangzhou, Beijing and Guangzhou.
Just a few weeks ago, Baidu expanded its Apollo Go services in Beijing to Tongzhou District, considered the city’s eastern gateway, adding 22 new stations over 50 km. In April, the company launched 10 fully driverless robotaxis in the capital’s Shougang Park, a 1.2 square mile area that became the testing ground for the first commercialized robotaxi operations in China. No human security operator is seated at the wheel of these cars, only a security member is installed in the passenger seat to reassure the drivers. Each ride costs 30 yuan ($ 4.60) and is open to passengers between the ages of 18 and 60. Everywhere else, including Shanghai, journeys are free because the service is still in the testing phase.
Cyclists in Shanghai can use the Apollo Go app to call a robotaxi from 9:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. and be picked up or dropped off at any of the 150 stations in Jianding District, home to Shanghai University, the Shanghai International Circuit, and many tourists. attractions.
Shanghai is also home to Baidu’s Apollo Park, an autonomous vehicle facility for operations, testing and R&D. The 10,000 square meter space will house the 200 AVs Baidu hopes to bring to the city, making it the site of eastern China’s largest autonomous vehicle fleet.
Baidu’s long game is to deploy 3,000 AVs over the next two to three years in 30 cities in China. Since the company has been investing in R&D for audiovisual technology since 2013 and leading the Apollo project since 2017, Baidu is on the verge of doing so. In June, Baidu and BAIC Group unveiled their plans for the Apollo Moon, which is expected to be mass-produced with a unit manufacturing price of 480,000 yuan, or about $ 75,000, which is actually quite cheap, all things considered. Baidu has announced that it will produce 1,000 of these vehicles over the next two years, along with various models that have yet to be announced, to supply its growing fleet.
Infrastructure is a big part of Baidu’s goals to expand Apollo Go. A Baidu spokesperson said the company is also investing in building 5G-powered V2X infrastructure at hundreds of intersections in major cities. Chinese. Baidu is already installing sensors such as cameras and lidar, coupled with advanced computing systems capable of transferring traffic information to autonomous systems, in order to reduce congestion. In the long run, smart infrastructure will help VAs run more robustly and serve to offset some of the huge costs associated with onboard sensors and computing power, according to the company.
While Baidu says its robotaxis currently relies on on-board capabilities to achieve L4 autonomy, the company sees V2X as the future of large-scale deployment.