The first fleet of self-driving taxis is launched in Beijing with rides costing $ 4.60

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A leading Chinese internet company rolled out a fleet of fully self-driving robot taxis on Sunday.

Ten Apollo Go Robotaxis started picking up passengers in western Beijing for about $ 4.60 per trip.

Developed by Baidu, they are the first paid autonomous taxis in China to have no safety driver behind the wheel.

The vehicles are programmed with eight destinations in Shougang Park, home to the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympics.

However, there is a remote control that can take control of the vehicle in an emergency.

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Baidu's fleet of 10 Apollo Go autonomous robotic taxis begins picking up passengers at Shougang Park in Beijing on Sunday over Labor Day holiday weekend

Baidu’s fleet of 10 Apollo Go autonomous robotic taxis begins picking up passengers at Shougang Park in Beijing on Sunday over Labor Day holiday weekend

Baidu, China’s answer to Google, debuted the fully self-driving robotaxis on a holiday weekend – Monday is International Workers’ Day or Labor Day.

The taxis took passengers to offices, coffee shops, hotels and a parking lot around Shougang Park, a former industrial area in West Beijing that is undergoing gentrification.

The 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing will be held at Shougang Park and Baidu expects Apollo Go Robotaxis to be used to transport personnel to and from Olympic venues.

“The introduction of driverless services is an indispensable phase in the commercialization of autonomous driving,” said Yunpeng Wang, Baidu’s general manager for autonomous driving technology.

This is the first commercial robot taxi in China without a human driver behind the wheel.  For now, in case of an emergency, there is a safety engineer in the passenger seat

This is the first commercial robot taxi in China without a human driver behind the wheel. For the time being, there is a safety engineer in the front passenger seat in case of an emergency

To stop a vehicle, users submit a request through the Apollo Go app – the taxi will announce its arrival with a polite honking tone.

Users must scan a QR code and health information before getting into the car to both confirm their identity and prevent the spread of disease.

Apollo’s AI will not begin the journey until safety protocols are confirmed, including checking that the doors are closed and all seat belts are fastened.

Unlike previous demonstrations, there was no human driver behind the wheel – only a safety engineer sat in the front passenger seat.

The taxis took passengers to offices, coffee shops, hotels and a car park around Shougang Park, a former industrial zone in western Beijing that is undergoing gentrification and will be the site of the 2022 Winter Olympics.

The taxis took passengers to offices, coffee shops, hotels and a car park around Shougang Park, a former industrial zone in western Beijing that is undergoing gentrification and will be the site of the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Users stop a taxi by selecting it in the Apollo Go app.  The doors are unlocked by scanning a QR code and health information

Users stop a taxi by selecting it in the Apollo Go app. The doors are unlocked by scanning a QR code and health information

The car’s 5G Remote Driving Service allows an operator to remotely take control of the vehicle in an emergency.

In October 2020, Waymo, a subsidiary of Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc, launched a driverless taxi service in the suburbs of Phoenix, Arizona.

Baidu’s 10 robotic taxis now operate in a 1.2-square-mile section of Beijing’s Shougang Park, offering passengers ages 18 to 60 a ride to one of eight preprogrammed destinations.

Wang predicted that Apollo Gos will be adopted by other ‘top-notch Chinese cities’ and then international locations, providing easier and more eco-friendly transit options around the world.

“The commercialization of autonomous driving can effectively reduce congestion and help achieve maximum carbon dioxide emissions and achieve carbon neutrality in China,” he added.

A rider working in the artificial intelligence industry praised the smooth experience she had with Apollo Go.

“There is a strong sense of technology because no one is behind the wheel,” Kelly Wang told the Associated Press. “I would advise people to experience this.”

The taxis were pre-programmed with eight destinations, and each journey costs about $ 4.60

The taxis were pre-programmed with eight destinations, and each journey costs about $ 4.60

Since Baidu first invested in self-driving vehicles in 2013, it has developed a fleet of 500 vehicles for autonomous driving tests

Since Baidu first invested in self-driving vehicles in 2013, it has developed a fleet of 500 vehicles for autonomous driving tests

However, not everyone was convinced that self-driving cars are such a great idea.

“We’ve all had experiences like other cars queuing or suddenly changing lanes,” visitor Amy Li told the AP. ‘People have emotions while robots currently don’t.’

Autonomous vehicles “may not be able to cope with such changes,” she said.

Since Baidu first invested in self-driving vehicles in 2013, it has developed a fleet of 500 vehicles for autonomous driving tests.

Apollo's AI will not begin the journey until safety protocols are confirmed, including checking that the doors are closed and all seat belts are fastened.

Apollo’s AI will not begin the journey until safety protocols are confirmed, including checking that the doors are closed and all seat belts are fastened.

Wang insisted that before Sunday’s launch, the company had conducted “ numerous scalable driverless tests in many cities over a long period of time. ”

It began testing the Apollo Go in Beijing’s Yizhuang, Haidian and Shunyi neighborhoods in October 2020, clocking a total of more than six million miles of road tests.

Two years ago, Baudi announced a partnership with BlackBerry to use the smartphone manufacturer’s QNX software to develop an operating system for computer chips used to control self-driving vehicles.

In January, it was announced that Baidu’s high-definition cards will be integrated into BlackBerry’s QNX operating system in new models of the GAC New Energy Aion.

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