Baidu, China’s largest search engine has begun to use its 45-vehicle robo-taxi fleet to transport real passengers in Changsha, the capital of China’s Hunan province.
While the real world use of the robo-taxis begins, passengers are reassured that their rides are safe, since there is a human monitor in each robo-taxi to guarantee safety.
As Baidu moves another step forward towards its goal to commercializing self-driving automobiles, the company is asking residents of Changsha to apply on its website to be “test” passengers for its new robo-taxis.
During this phase of testing, robo-taxis are allowed to drive on 135-kilometre-long testing ground of roads that are next to office building in the city center as well as in rural areas that contain lakes and mountains in Changsha so that the robo-taxis are forced to drive through a variety of different streets conditions for the tests.
An interior photo of a Baidu “Robo-Taxi” – Photo provided by Baidu
Baidu is also monitoring the progress of international and domestic rivals in the autonomous automobile vehicle space. One of the companies that Baidu is especially interested in is “WeRide,” a start-up enterprise that was founded by two ex-Baidu employees. Wang Jin is Baidu’s former leader of its autonomous driving team, while Tony Han was previously the chief scientist of Baidu’s autonomous driving research unit.
Wang and Han set-up their company and have established a joint-venture with taxi operators in Guangzhou, the capital of South China’s Guangdong province, to roll out its own robo-taxi fleet.
Another competitor in this space is Aptiv Autonomous Mobility; a US-based company that has been offering commercial robo-taxi rides to the general public in partnership with Lyft. Aptiv said it has completed more than 50,000 passenger rides, and claims that 92% of riders felt “very safe” or “extremely safe” during their rides.