Baidu Unveils ‘Cheap’ Robo-Taxi in China

China’s leading digital giant, Baidu, has unveiled its latest, and cheapest, robo-taxi to operate within its Apollo Go commercial service.

The BBC reports that the company’s new fully autonomous model, the Apollo RT6, claims the road skills of a human driver with 20 years’ experience. That said, under the country’s highway regulations, the driverless taxis still require a safety driver’s presence.

However, the vehicle has been designed to work in full automated mode with a detachable steering wheel which could be replaced by extra seats, vending machines, desks or games consoles. Each vehicle would retail at 250,000 yuan ($37,000) a large discount on previous Baidu models.

Baidu wants the RT6 to join its existing fleet in the second half of 2023, for a small-scale trial, and plans eventually to have 100,000 of them on the roads. The vehicle boasts 38 sensors, including eight LiDAR sensors, a 6mm (0.2in) wave radar, 12 ultrasonic sensors and 12 cameras.

The company is running robo-taxis on a trial basis in 10 cities in China, including Shenzhen, Shanghai and Beijing, and claims to have given more than one million rides since its service launched, in 2020. Co-founder and chief executive Robin Li told the company’s annual technology conference: “This massive cost reduction will enable us to deploy tens of thousands of [automated vehicles] across China. We are moving towards a future where taking a robo-taxi will be half the cost of taking a taxi today.”

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

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