Baidu (BIDU) robotaxis offering fully-driverless rides continue to take over China

Apollo Go, tech company Baidu’s robotaxi service, has received a permit to offer fully-driverless rides in Beijing, expanding its autonomous ride-hailing service to three major cities in China. Following the awarded permit, Baidu is now the first company in the entire world to offer fully-driverless rides to the over 21 million residents in China’s capital city.

Baidu has previously been primarily known as a search engine giant in China, but has turned its focus toward EVs, AI, and autonomous driving technologies the past several years. In fact, its Apollo ecosystem has garnered over a hundred partnerships with various manufacturers and suppliers including Toyota, Ford, and Volkswagen.

Additionally, the internet company has made impressive progress in developing its own robotaxi fleet in China using its Apollo software platform. In January of 2021, Baidu announced it was expanding from software development into physical EV production, joining forces with Geely to produce electric vehicles. The companies soon introduced JIDU – an intelligent robot EV startup that recently unveiled its second EV model.

Since then, Baidu has also introduced a bespoke robotaxi called the RT6 – capable of Level 4 autonomous driving, complete with a detachable steering wheel. While Baidu works to get a robotaxi of that tier of autonomy certified in China, it has been making tremendous progress with its Apollo Go service, which surpassed one million autonomous rides last summer and eclipsed two million rides in late January 2023.

Previously, Baidu has been permitted by the powers that be in China to operate fully-driverless robotaxi rides in the cities of Wuhan and Chongqing. Today, it announced that Beijing is now the next megacity in China to allow fully-driverless rides.

Baidu expands driverless robotaxi rides to China’s capital

Baidu announced its awarded robotaxi permit for Beijing in a press release today, sharing services will begin with the deployment 10 fully-driverless vehicles in the city’s Yizhuang Economic Development Zone.

The tech company states that Apollo Go is already providing an average of over 20 rides per EV, per day in that zone, which is higher than the average daily rides for traditional ride-hailing services. Its initial footprint for driverless robotaxi services is 60 square kilometers, but says it will eventually expand to 500 square kilometers in China’s capital.

Today’s news is the latest milestone in Baidu’s news from last November, in which is shared plans to scale up Apollo’s operations in 2023 with self-driving robotaxi operations in more regions of China. This strategy all remains part of a larger goal to expand its Apollo Go self-driving service to 65 cities by 2025 and 100 cities by 2030.

With targets like that, we can expand to hear of more robotaxi rollouts in China soon.

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