What You Need to Know About Baidu’s Apollo Go Robotaxi in Beijing
Two weeks ago, we were thrilled to announce a huge step forward in the large-scale application of autonomous driving: On October 10, 2020, Baidu fully opened its Apollo Go Robotaxi service to the public in Beijing, free of charge and with no reservation necessary. After two weeks of widespread use throughout Beijing, here’s what you need to know:
How can I experience Baidu’s Apollo Go Robotaxi service in Beijing?
You can now hail a robotaxi in Beijing with one tap in Baidu Maps, Apollo GO (a standalone ride-hailing mobile app), or the Apollo GO mini program on Baidu App.
In compliance with local regulations, our robotaxi can accommodate up to two passengers at a time between the ages of 18 and 60, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.
What’s been the response from the public?
We’ve seen huge traction among local residents for the service in Beijing, who are lining up to experience our robotaxis. We’ve received more than 2,600 ride requests in a single day.
How large is the service area?
Our Apollo Go Robotaxi service operates within a 700-kilometer area (currently the largest autonomous driving test area and longest road network in China). While we currently have 14 pick-up and drop-off stations approved and opened to the public, we’ll expand to nearly 100 pick-up and drop-off stations covering residential and business areas in Yizhuang, Haidian, and Shunyi districts in the near future.
How many vehicles are part of the fleet?
Our Apollo Go Robotaxi service currently consists of 40 Lincoln MKZs. The Lincoln MKZ is our 3rd-generation autonomous vehicle model approved for self-driving testing licenses in Beijing. Under the city’s “one-vehicle, one-license” policy, we continue to use Lincoln MKZs for the Beijing trial operation.
However, we’re currently in discussion with local authorities to bring our newest-generation pre-installed FAW Hongqi EVs to the fleet in Beijing, which overcome the Lincoln MKZ’s capacity limitations in terms of software-hardware integration.
Are there any other cities where Apollo Go Robotaxis are fully available?
Why is the safety driver still sitting behind the wheel?
Beijing hasn’t approved fully driverless testing without human safety drivers on public roads.
When will Baidu Apollo start driverless trials?
On September 15, 2020, Baidu Apollo was given licenses for driverless driving road tests in Changsha, Hunan province. We are now testing robotaxis equipped with 5G-enabled teleoperation, or 5G Remote Driving, in the city.
In September, we demonstrated fully automated driving in Beijing’s Shougang Park and showcased 5G-enabled teleoperation, namely 5G Remote Driving, which can engage instantaneously to provide immediate assistance from remote human operators when the user or the system switches to parallel driving mode.
What’s significant about the Apollo Go Robotaxi service launch in Beijing?
The launch of our Apollo Go Robotaxi service in Beijing, the capital of China, marks a new stage of autonomous driving development in the country. Beijing is the first city in China to regulate and open autonomous driving road test zones. The city has comprehensive infrastructure and policies to foster high-speed development of the industry. In 2019, Beijing ranked first in China for numbers of test licenses and vehicle categories, as well as the diversity of test scenarios. In addition, Beijing has issued the most stringent safety requirements for manned autonomous driving tests in China to ensure the safety and reliability of the industry.
What’s the pre-requisite for operating robotaxis in Beijing?
All autonomous vehicles must be approved for self-driving licenses prior to road tests. In July 2019, we received T4 licenses, the highest-level self-driving license ever issued in China, which permits road testing under complex urban road conditions. Baidu is currently the only company that owns T4 licenses.
Last December, we secured licenses to test autonomous vehicles carrying passengers on designated roads in Beijing. After eight months of small-scale manned testing, the Apollo Go Robotaxi fleet completed road tests totaling 519,000 kilometers in Beijing and obtained permission to enter the next stage: opening up to the general public.