Soon, commuters in China will be able to call a taxi without anyone actually driving it. An autonomous-driving startup Pony.ai, along with the company BAIDU, has announced that they have received permits from the Chinese government to offer robotic axi rides to the general public. The permits specifically state that a driver does not have to be present in the car. The services are currently live and anyone using the company’s apps can call a cab during the day.
The official Baidu Inc. account on Twitter wrote: “And… transform! #ApolloGo Robotaxis is ready to fly! With #5G Remote Driving and #V2X technology, Baidu’s robotic axes are among the coolest cars in China”
— Baidu Inc. (@Baidu_Inc) Apr 26, 2022
Each company can only provide rides within a 23-square-mile radius, and for now, there will be an operator in the front passenger seat to take over the vehicle in an emergency. For promotional aspects, the programs are offered to riders free of charge. The permits are a historic first step in the largest car market in the world.
China has often been used as a testing ground for various self-driving vehicles. According to DailyExpertNewscompanies continue to run more ambitious tests by removing the safety driver, opening their services to the public or driving on public roads, and the mileage their vehicles have been tested.
BAIDU has previously offered ride-hailing services, but the autonomous vehicle still required a human in the driver’s seat. They had tested this in several cities, including Beijing.
Another Chinese startup called AutoX had also rolled out fully self-driving taxis on public roads in Shenzhen city in 2020, but that initiative was only for testing and was unable to accept regular passengers.