Baidu has secured the first permits in China for commercial, fully driverless, robotaxi services on open roads. Apollo Go, Baidu’s autonomous ride-hailing service, is now authorized to collect fares for robotaxi rides, without human drivers in the car, in Chongqing and Wuhan, two of China’s largest megacities.
“This is a tremendous qualitative change,” said Wei Dong, VP and chief safety operation officer of Baidu’s Intelligent Driving Group. “Fully driverless cars providing rides on open roads to paying customers means we have finally come to the moment that the industry has been longing for. We believe these permits are a key milestone on the path to the inflection point when the industry can finally roll out fully autonomous driving services at scale.”
The permits were granted to Baidu by government agencies in Wuhan and Chongqing’s Yongchuan District. Having received the permits, Baidu will begin to provide fully driverless services in the designated areas across the two cities, with five Apollo fifth-generation robotaxis operating in each.
To receive the permits, Baidu’s robotaxis had to undergo multiple stages of testing and licensing, starting with a safety operator in the driving seat, to testing with a safety operator in the passenger seat, before finally receiving authorization to operate with no human driver or operator in the vehicle.