Thursday September 29, 2022

First robotaxi services in Beijing to operate without safety drivers are Baidu and Pony.ai

CNBC reports that Pony.ai and Baidu have been granted permission to operate their autonomous vehicles in Beijing without safety drivers. This is a first for China’s robotaxi services. Both companies no longer require a staff member to drive the vehicle, but they can operate in a 60-kilometer (23.1-mile) area in Yizhuang in Beijing, home to about 300,000. CNBC states that Pony.ai is limited to operating four autonomous vehicles. Baidu can only deploy 10 vehicles in the area. Both companies plan to increase the number of vehicles on roads (with Baidu shooting at 30), but it’s not clear when that will happen.
Beijing authorities allowed Pony.ai and Baidu to charge for their robotaxi services within the Yizhuang region of Beijing last November. However, the city initially required that both services have a safety driver. TechCrunch reports that riders can hail either a robotaxi service via Baidu’s Apollo Go app between 10AM and 4PM or with Pony.ai’s PonyPilot Plus application between 9AM and 5PM.
Pony.ai, a Toyota-backed company, was granted a taxi license in China last week. It was granted permission to operate 100 vehicles at Nansha, Guangzhou. A safety driver will also be present for a brief period. Pony.ai was approved to test its autonomous cars in three California cities without safety drivers, but this permit was revoked after Pony.ai’s car collided with a center divide.
Baidu, the company behind the huge Chinese search engine of that name, was also approved to test its vehicles in Sunnyvale, California without safety drivers. It joins other autonomous vehicle companies like Waymo and Cruise that can operate fully driverless vehicles in California.

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