Baidu launches fully driverless ride-hailing in Beijing

  • May 10, 2021
  • William Payne

Baidu has launched a fully driverless robotaxi service to the public in Beijing. The new service, which began on May 2, is  China’s first paid autonomous vehicle service where users can hail a robotaxi without a safety driver behind the steering wheel.

Planned as one of a number of self-driving taxi services in Beijing, the first service was launched during the country’s May Day holiday in Beijing’s Shougang Park – one of the venues for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

Using the Apollo Go App, passengers can locate a robotaxi in the neighbourhood and hail a driverless ride by themselves through a system of unmanned self-service processes. 

Features including virtual reality navigation and remote car honking can help users to identify the location of the car. To unlock the autonomous vehicles, users are required to scan a QR code and health code on the car for identity verification and pandemic prevention purposes.

Upon boarding the vehicle and clicking on the “Start the Journey” button, the system will ensure that seat belts are fastened and the doors are shut, the trip only beginning after all the passenger safety protocol checks are completed. 

During the upcoming Winter Olympics, the Apollo robotaxis will be used to provide shuttle services for athletes and staff.

“Introducing unmanned services is an indispensable stage for the commercialisation of autonomous driving. Today, we are opening the fully driverless robotaxi services in Beijing for the public, which we achieved only after conducting countless scalable driverless tests in many cities over a long period of time,” said Yunpeng Wang, vice president and general manager of autonomous driving technology at Baidu.

“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,” he said. “The commercialisation of autonomous driving can alleviate congestion effectively and help to reach the peak carbon dioxide emissions and achieve carbon neutrality in China.”

Since October last year, Baidu has started autonomous driving tests for the public under trial operations in areas such as Yizhuang, Haidian and Shunyi in Beijing. Baidu Apollo is moving forward to a new stage of scalable commercialised operations with the launch of the fully driverless robotaxi services in the capital, as a starting point of commercialised operations in first-tier Chinese cities. Baidu Apollo recently announced the completion of over 10 million kilometres of road testing for autonomous driving.