Baidu Apollo to Launch Fully Driverless Robotaxi in Beijing Starting May 2

The autonomous driving bus station of Baidu Apollo. (Source: Baidu)

Baidu will open its fully driverless Apollo Go Robotaxi service to the public in Beijing’s Shougang Park starting from May 2 – the second day of bustling Labor Day holiday – marking a further step in the firm’s commercialization of autonomous driving.

By using the Apollo GO App, users will be able to enjoy a safe driverless service in Shougang Park, one of the venues for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. The large flow of visitors during the Labor Day holiday period presents a significant challenge for autonomous driving.

About 10 robotaxis will first be launched in the park to transport users to sports halls, work areas, parking lots, coffee shops and hotels. During the upcoming Winter Olympics, the Apollo robotaxis will be available to provide shuttle services for athletes and staff. 

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Since the company began research and development of robotaxis in 2019, Baidu has carried out driving trials on open roads in Beijing, Changsha, Cangzhou and California, as well as semi-open roads in other cities.

In September of last year, Baidu Apollo revealed its robotaxi for the first time through a CCTV news live broadcast. With a fleet of 500 vehicles for autonomous driving trials, Baidu has been granted 2,900 patents for intelligent driving and 221 test drive licenses, among which 179 have been designated to test self-driving cars for carrying passengers.

On the ride-hailing app, passengers are required to input their names, ID numbers and other information before booking a car. Only users between the ages of 18 and 60 who have passed ID card verification are allowed to enjoy automatic driving services. Features such as virtual reality navigation and remote car honking can help users to identify the location of the car. To unlock the autonomous vehicles, users must scan a QR code on the car, as well as a health code for pandemic prevention purposes.

The user interface of Apollo GO App. (Source: Baidu)

After passengers enter the taxi, the gravity sensing device in the seat will check whether the seat belt is fastened and the door is closed. During the trip, the robotaxi can cope with normal situations like turning, waiting for traffic lights at intersections and changing lanes after encountering obstacles. With no safety driver at the helm, the 5G Remote Driving Service is active, allowing human operators to remotely access the vehicle in the case of exceptional emergencies.

At the present stage, the starting price of a ride in the robotaxi is 30 yuan, with extra bonuses also available, including tickets and coffee coupons for the museum of three blast furnaces. In the upcoming normal operation period, the service fees, which are similar to that of ordinary online ride-hailing services, might fluctuate according to supply and demand.

“In the future, Baidu Apollo will launch driverless robotaxis in more cities, enabling the public to access greener, low-carbon and convenient travel services, while continuing to improve the unmanned service process and user experience. The commercialization of autonomous driving can alleviate congestion effectively and help to reach the peak carbon dioxide emissions and achieve carbon neutrality in China,” Yunpeng Wang, vice president and general manager of autonomous driving technology at Baidu, said.