Chinese tech company Baidu has announced that it can now operate robotaxis in a part of the capital city of Beijing with no human staff or driver inside.
According to CNBC, the move eliminates the labor cost for operating self-driving taxis — up to the permitted number of cars.
The government approval initially covers 10 vehicles in the Beijing suburb of Yizhuang, which is home to many corporations such as JD.com.
The suburb is the primary site of Baidu’s robotaxi public road testing and operation in Beijing city. In November 2021, local authorities allowed Baidu and rival robotaxi operator Pony.ai to charge fares for rides.
Public transport users can book heavily subsidized robotaxi rides through the companies’ apps.
Since the third quarter, Baidu claimed that in major Chinese cities, its self-driving taxis complete an average of more than 15 rides per vehicle per day — on par with traditional ride-hailing services
Baidu said in August it received approval to operate a handful of driverless and staff-less robot axis in suburbs of major Chinese cities like Wuhan and Chongqing.
In the U.S., laws for testing robotaxis and charging riders also vary by city and state. Alphabet’s Waymo and General Motors subsidiary Cruise have operated public robotaxi services in the U.S. with no human staff inside.
Baidu shares briefly soared by more than 15 percent during Hong Kong trading on Friday.
The stock closed at eight-week lows Thursday after the company revealed its artificial intelligence-powered Ernie bot, a Chinese-language rival to ChatGPT. CEO Robin Li said the company’s Ernie bot was not perfect, and emphasized the need to improve the product.
Source: The Punch