Aug 8, 2022 - Economy & Business

Fully self-driving taxis approved for two major Chinese cities

two driverless cars from Baidu shown on roads of Beijing

Two Baidu Apollo Go's commercialized autonomous robotaxis in Beijing in November 2021. Photo: VCG/VCG via Getty Images

Self-driving taxis without safety supervisors are now approved for roads in Wuhan and Chongqing in China.

Why it matters: The vehicles, operated by parent company Baidu, are the first-ever fully driverless licensed robotaxis in China, according to the FT.

Details: Five taxis in each city will operate during business hours of around 9am to 5pm.

  • The service areas will cover just about 5 square miles in Wuhan and 12 square miles in Chongqing.
  • For context: Wuhan is about 3,300 square miles in size and Chongqing is about 32,000 square miles.
  • Of note: Driverless taxis have already been on roads in China, but with safety supervisors inside.
  • Baidu, specifically, wants to double the number of robotaxis it has on roads to 600 by the end of this year, the company tells Bloomberg, as it shifts toward making autonomous driving tech and AI.

The big picture: While there's been plenty of global hype for autonomous vehicles, the business case isn't cheap nor easy.

  • The cars themselves cost over $100,000. Regulation has only just begun. Safety issues are still a major concern. And testing (and teaching) the vehicles must be done block by block.

What to watch: Experts say that autonomous systems will change the entire auto industry.

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