The interior of Baidu driverless robotaxi in Beijing after t got the permit.
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Baidu granted first-ever permits for fully driverless ride-hailing service in Beijing.

Baidu Apollo will deploy 10 fully driverless vehicles in Yizhuang Economic Development Zone in Beijing, marking a significant milestone in the autonomous driving industry.

In a groundbreaking development for the field of autonomous vehicles, Baidu has been granted the first-ever permit to provide fully driverless ride-hailing service in the Chinese capital Beijing. This marks a major milestone worldwide, as it is the first-ever fully driverless fleet to be deployed in the capital city of any country.

Baidu, a leading AI company with a strong internet foundation, has been working on autonomous driving technology for several years now. With this permit, Baidu Apollo will deploy a total of 10 fully driverless vehicles in the Beijing Yizhuang Economic Development Zone, one of the active centers of autonomous driving in China.

Users in three megacities in China, including Beijing, Wuhan, and Chongqing, will now have access to fully driverless robotaxi services. Baidu’s autonomous ride-hailing service platform, Apollo Go, is already providing an average of more than 20 rides per vehicle per day within the region, surpassing the average ride volume of traditional online ride-hailing services.

This move by Baidu could potentially revolutionize the transportation industry, as it demonstrates that fully autonomous vehicles are becoming more and more viable for public use. However, it also raises important questions about the safety and regulation of these vehicles.

The Beijing Municipal Government Work Report for 2023 reveals that the Beijing High-Level Automated Demonstration Area (BJHAD) located in the Yizhuang Economic Development Zone will expand from its current 60 square kilometers to a massive 500 square kilometers. This move is aimed at promoting the development of autonomous driving technology in the region. Additionally, the city is also exploring ways to operate autonomous driving vehicles that will connect the Yizhuang Economic Development Zone with the nearby airport, which could lead to commercial autonomous driving logistics operations serving the wider Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region.

Baidu’s success in obtaining government permits to operate fully driverless services in multiple Chinese cities is a result of the company’s decade-long technical exploration in autonomous driving. Baidu Apollo, the company’s autonomous driving division, is leading the global competition in this field and is the only Chinese operator ranked among the leading autonomous driving vendors in the world, according to the Q1 2023 Guidehouse Insights Leaderboard.

Baidu has been at the forefront of autonomous driving technology development since 2013 and has accumulated over 50 million kilometers in testing mileage on Level 4 autonomous driving. Notably, the company has secured more than 4,600 patent families for autonomous driving technology, including the highest number of high-level autonomous driving patents globally.

In addition to breakthroughs in obtaining government permits, Baidu’s Apollo Go has achieved significant milestones in its operation. In Q4 2022, Apollo Go provided 561,000 rides to the public, marking a 162% YoY increase. By the end of January 2023, the cumulative rides provided by Apollo Go surpassed 2 million, making Baidu the largest autonomous ride-hailing service provider worldwide. Baidu aims to establish the world’s largest fully driverless ride-hailing area in 2023.

Also Read: Tesla starts rolling out Full Self-Driving Beta v11.

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