Commercial Driverless Robotaxis Arrive in China

Baidu and Pony.ai’s self-driving cabs are up and running
A commercial driverless robotaxi service is now offered on the streets of the Chinese metropolis of Beijing. The confirmation that the self-driving cabs are in operation follows the granting of two operating licenses in April to Pony.ai and Baidu. As you might expect, the new service has some limitations. The two companies can only operate 30 unmanned vehicles in a specific area known as the Beijing High-Level Automated Driving Demonstration Area, which covers 23 square miles. And while robot axes don’t have to have a human security operator in the driver’s seat, they do have to have a monitor in the passenger seat. At least with the Pony.ai cabs, the load will be at the same level as a robotic axis with a driver. At peak, this equates to $0.44 per kilometer, while off-peak it is $0.38 per kilometer. Pony.ai has also suggested that it will offer incentives to try to attract potential skeptical customers in the early days of the service, though it’s unclear at this point what those will be. The commercial service is still considered a pilot, and local authorities have set strict regulations that Pony.ai and Baidu must provide comprehensive records of mileage, order times, and customer feedback. . Vehicle charging Robotosa has been operating in Beijing since November 2021, albeit with safety drivers on board. At that time, Pony.ai transported more than 80,000 passengers in the city. Cabs are ordered through the PonyPilot+ app, which will now be updated to let users know if they want to ride in a driverless car and how long they’re willing to wait to be picked up. Peng Jun, co-founder, and CEO of Pony.ai welcomed the arrival of the commercial service. “Autonomous driving technology has arrived on the eve of widespread commercial use,” Jun said. “The achievements of Beijing’s policy are a huge boost for the entire sector. Autonomous driving technology is developing rapidly and the business model is being validated more and more. ” Beijing is launching commercially available driverless robot taxis just a month after General Motors subsidiary Cruise launched an unmanned fare billing service in San Francisco – the first of its kind in a major US city. However, it attracted the wrong kind of headlines in the early weeks as a small fleet of taxis blocked the road for hours after an unexpected technical fault.