Baidu has started offering its Apollo “robotaxi” service in Changsha city of Hunan Province, becoming one of the first companies to carry passengers in autonomous vehicles in China.
People in Changsha can hail Baidu’s autonomous taxis for free through Baidu’s navigation app Baidu Maps, according to Baidu’s official press release earlier this week.
Currently, Baidu’s Robotaxi service is limited to specific areas of Changsha city which include residential areas, commercial zones, and industrial complexes. Each taxi has a backup driver in the car to take manual control in case of an emergency.
Baidu launched its open-source Apollo platform three years ago for autonomous vehicles R&D such as high-definition mapping and obstacle perception technology.
At the Apollo Partner Conference in December 2019, Apollo v5.5 was released to support urban road point-to-point autonomous driving, as well as open-platform development for V2X and IoV solutions. Apollo has garnered 177 leading OEMs, suppliers and other partners, and over 36,000 developers worldwide.
Apollo fleet has reached 3 million test kilometers on the road in December 2019, spanning across 23 cities, including Beijing, Wuhan, Cangzhou and Changchun. The municipality of Beijing granted Baidu its first batch of 40 manned autonomous driving licenses in December 2019.
Last week, a self-driving startup AutoX opened a self-driving taxi operations center in Shanghai in preparation for its upcoming robotaxi pilot project in the financial hub. Ride-hailing service provider Didi Chuxing also has a similar plan.
Baidu Maps car-hailing aggregation platform was launched in 2015. At present, it has access Didi, Shouqi, Cao Cao, Dida, Ctrip, and etc. covering the mainstream vehicle services such as taxi, express, special car, airport transfer machine, car rental, etc. Now it has covered more than 400 cities in China.