Baidu Begins Public Robo-Taxi Rides in ‘Smart City’

Digital giant Baidu has begun robo-taxi rides for members of the public in a city claiming to be at the forefront of China’s drive towards smart city capabilities.

Late last month, Baidu officially launched its robo-taxi-hailing service in Changsha, where users can book a test ride for free via the “Dutaxi” app. After using the service, city resident Zhang Jun, said: “The unmanned taxi ride went almost as smoothly as the regular one does. It’s really a convenient service. The taxi arrived in just a few minutes after I typed in my destination address and pressed the ‘call out’ button on the Dutaxi app.”

Changsha in the Hunan province sees the tests as the culmination of its drive for an autonomous connected infrastructure it began building as early as 2016 with the aim of forging a complete automotive industry value chain covering intelligent connected vehicle (ICV), road and cloud computing through technological innovation. Last year, Germany’s Schaeffler Group, a leading manufacturer of rolling bearings, located its wholly owned entity engaged in intelligent driving and the second research and development center of Schaeffler Greater China in the Xiangjiang New District of Changsha. The two establishments specialize in vehicle platforms and 90-degree intelligent steering control, marking the official entry of the company’s core autonomous driving technology and products into China.

As part of its long-term development plan, the city invested and built China’s largest intelligent driving test zone consisting of 83 miles of urban open roads and 62 miles of expressways. Baidu’s robo-taxi project is just one of several innovating programs now working in the city with others from traditional automakers such as SAIC Motor, Geely and BYD, emerging automobile brands such as NIO, Xiaopeng and Weltmeister, and leading internet firms such as Alibaba, Tencent, JD, Huawei Kunpeng, iFLYTEK and CSDN. In cooperation with Changsha municipal government, Huawei launched its ICV project in the Xiangjiang New District.

Hu Henghua, member of the standing committee of the Communist Party of China, Hunan Provincial Committee and secretary of CPC Changsha municipal committee, said: “We are ushering in an era of artificial intelligence. Whoever seizes this opportunity will take the lead in replacing old economic growth drivers with new ones and achieving high-quality development.”

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in London. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *