Baidu starts paying for driverless taxi services in China

It has been announced that they have obtained a license to operate a paid Robotaxi service in China without a human safety driver on board. Previously, they had been operating with a human operator behind the wheel or in the passenger seat. Baidu said it would immediately start operations in Chongqing and Wuhan, two big cities in central China. They have previously operated in several cities in eastern China, in some cases partnering with passenger seat operators. The service will only be available from approximately 9 am to 5 am, in the 13 square kilometer area of ​​Wuhan and the 30 square kilometer area of ​​Yongchuan District of Chongqing. The Wuhan area is a special area, with 321 kilometers of approved roads, 106 kilometers of which have special 5G, which enables low-latency remote monitoring and even remote driving of vehicles.

Notably, remove the person from the vehicle. For the outside public, it’s hard to gauge the progress of a fleet of robots. Everyone posted really good videos about their car driving and solving various problems. The thing is you can make videos like this at almost any level of progression, if you choose what you show. So we have to measure teams based on how much risk they are willing to take and how many people they will allow to see every aspect of the operation.

The decision to driverless in the car meant the team made a major presentation to the board where they showed the car was good enough to be released in such a way that the public and no one could grab the steering wheel or be in an emergency. Stop if something goes wrong. This tells us that the team made a convincing case and that it was of good quality – or maybe the team was reckless, as we’ll know soon. Baidu claims to have operated 32 million kilometers to date. Baidu said that while there are remote monitors, they have about 2-3 vehicles per remote monitor, so it’s not a 1:1 ratio.

Vehicles must pick up/drop off at designated stops, not anywhere with free curbs like human drivers do. “PuDo” is its own problem that not all teams have solved. (Cruise got into trouble just doing PuDo on the street without getting out of the car, although this is common for taxis at night.)

Another measure of the team’s self-assessment was whether they would allow the public to see random rides. Again, it’s not hard to get the media’s guest members to follow a pre-planned and well-tested route. If you allow the public to ride anywhere, anytime, you show confidence that it will work. Some teams require drivers to sign non-disclosure agreements instead of making videos. More confident teams allow anyone to post these videos. Again, this shows that the company’s own testing told them that their vehicle wouldn’t embarrass them in the video. Baidu said riders may create and post videos of their rides, so those videos will be interesting.

Of course, it’s not enough to just allow this.Tesla
The most open in fact, having allowed over 100,000 customers to try out their prototype driving systems, including myself. Of course, it does not allow operation without supervision. After allowing this, Tesla revealed that their system was extremely low quality and needed a lot of oversight, so it didn’t get a high score for the quality, but it did give us a glimpse of the quality. Those who don’t let us see the quality, may be considered worse than Tesla.

To a lesser extent, it also means that they have persuaded regulators, but the reality is that regulators do not have the capacity to assess the quality of self-driving cars. Even these teams are figuring out how to do it, but they are the only ones with a lot of ideas. What they dare to do shows that their own evaluation has the final say.

In the U.S., Waymo has operated vehicles without supervised drivers in Arizona for years. More recently, Cruise started nighttime operations in a limited area of ​​downtown San Francisco, and Waymo started operating 24/7, but has yet to start a fully unattended service.

The ability to charge is not a significant step, although it is often highly touted. So far, no one has attempted to run these services as a business. Charges allow them to see how the public reacts to services when they have to pay, and try other types of charges.Currently, most services are only charging similar or slightly less than Uber
. The robo-taxi service will eventually have to be a little less than Uber, and may have a completely different pricing structure than just the price per mile. Baidu Apollo taxi service costs 16 yuan plus 2.8 yuan per kilometer, which is comparable to manual services in parts of China.

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