This is what happens when you take a Chinese robot taxi without a handle

Technology

Baidu has unveiled plans for an autonomous electric vehicle with a detachable steering wheel, taking another step in the fast-paced race for Chinese robot taxis.

The Chinese tech giant, the country’s answer to Google (GOOGL), unveiled its Apollo RT6, a sixth-generation autonomous car, at its annual summit on Thursday.
Baidu’s travel service Apollo Go now offers services in its 10 cities in China. The new vehicle will launch as part of the program sometime next year.
The Apollo RT6’s detachable steering wheel can be legally removed after regulatory approval, the company’s chief executive said Thursday.
Baidu’s new design seeks to free up space for “extra seats, vending machines, desktop computers, game consoles” and more.
The company says its new self-driving car has significantly cut production costs by about half compared to previous versions. CEO Robin Li said the cost savings will be passed on to passengers as the company prepares to roll out the vehicle in existing automated taxi fleets across the country.
“We are moving toward a future where robot taxis will cost half what current taxis cost,” he said in a statement. We will be able to deploy the driver car.”
“We are moving toward a future where robot taxis will cost half what current taxis cost,” he said in a statement. We will be able to deploy the driver car.”
The company announced in April that, like other Chinese self-driving startups, it would allow people in certain regions to book taxis without getting behind the wheel.
Companies like GM, Honda, Google and Mercedes-Benz have demoed autonomous vehicles in the past.
In April, his CEO of Tesla (TSLA), Elon Musk, told analysts that the automaker wants to start mass-producing its own robotic taxis without steering wheels or pedals by 2024. paddy field.
Baidu said Thursday that the new model is ready for production, but did not identify its manufacturing partners.

The Internet Group said on Monday that Apollo Go vehicles can be driven in the Chinese cities of Wuhan and Chongqing without a safety inspector.

The approval gives Baidu, the operator of China’s largest search engine, an advantage over rivals such as Pony.ai, WeRide and AutoX, which are all competing to develop fully self-driving software systems. rice field.

Charlie Chai, a self-driving analyst at Shanghai-based 86 Research, said the permit would allow the company to conduct more tests on its vehicles.

“My hunch is that significant revenue-generating marketing is still two or three years away,” he said.

This service is available in central Wuhan from 9am to 5pm. m. to 5:00 p.m., southwest of Chongqing from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. m. ~16:30 The company claims that five robot taxis will be installed in each city.

In April, Baidu and Pony.ai were granted permission to move Safety’s driver from behind the wheel to the passenger seat as part of its Beijing robot taxi business. In July, Beijing regulators allowed the two companies to charge for self-driving trips in the capital’s 60 square kilometer suburbs.

Baidu struggled in the first quarter with its traditional revenue streams, video streaming and search platforms, as China’s economy slowed. The company expects its self-driving car business to bolster future earnings.

But Chai said the longer timeframe for commercialization of self-driving cars is a dilemma for shareholders.

IQIYI, the streaming platform in which Baidu has a majority stake, has seen weak searches and growth this year, he said. “The company does not have a good story and will only attract patient investors who are willing to wait,” he said.

Baidu CEO Robin Li said the company’s business has been affected by the resurgence of COVID-19 in China since mid-March, but believes the company’s AI business will continue to grow in the long term. he said he was confident he would support it

Analysts say self-driving cars have become the new playground for the United States and China.

“China and the United States are now racing from the same starting line,” said S&P Global Mobility analyst Owen Cheng. It is also a competition between governments.”