The taxi has arrived, but there is no one on board: in Chongqing and Wuhan, China, one of the most ambitious experiments with autonomous driving ever starts.
The Chinese company Baidu has received permits to offer a robotaxi service in the cities of Chongqing and Wuhan. The races can be booked directly from the smartphone: the car does not have a driver, but is driven by artificial intelligence.
Baidu, which provides its robotaxi services using the Apollo Go brand , had already received authorizations to take its unmanned cars to the streets of the capital, Beijing. After the first pilot tests, the project has moved on to a subsequent phase: now the company can charge the customer for the rides, whereas previously the service had to be strictly free. And not only that: if during the tests in Beijing the cars necessarily had to have at least one security staff on board, now the cars are free to circulate without personnel.
For this reason, Baidu explains that it is the first company to provide a true robotaxi service in China. Most of the competitors still use the security personnel on board the vehicles.
However, there are still some important limitations: in Wuhan the robotaxis will be in service exclusively during the time slot 9:00 – 17:00, moreover they will be able to cover an area of just 13 square kilometers. In Chongqing the service is active from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm and covers a neighborhood of about 30 square kilometers. Both districts do not have a lot of pedestrian traffic, and they also have very wide streets. For this reason, robotaxis can circulate freely without major security risks. Each city, for the time being, will have a fleet of just 5 self-driving cars.