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Baidu allowed to operate self-driving taxis at night

In Wuhan, Baidu’s self-driving taxis will start making night trips without any security drivers. This is another significant breakthrough for the self-driving industry in China.

The success of Apollo Go in China

Considered China’s Google, Baidu has had to diversify its business in recent years to compete with newcomers like ByteDance. The company is now one of the leaders in the field of autonomous driving, its Apollo open-source platform being the largest in the world. Its ambitions in this sector are colossal: it hopes to roll out its self-driving taxi service, Apollo Go, to 100 cities by 2030. Recently, the company also introduced its sixth-generation robotaxi dubbed RT6 which features a detachable steering wheel.

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Apollo Go is currently available in restricted areas of several Chinese cities, including Wuhan, Beijing, Shenzhen and Shanghai. The company assures that its service is increasingly popular: its activity jumped 65% during the third quarter, from 287,000 trips between April and June to 474,000 from July to September. In two cities, Chongqing and Wuhan, Baidu is operating rides without any security drivers after gaining approval from authorities in August. It is in the latter that his service will now operate at night.

As reported TechCrunch, Baidu has been granted permission to run trips between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. in the city without security drivers behind the wheel. Until then, the service could only operate between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Apollo Go has also tripled the size of its operating area to cover 130 square kilometers in Wuhan..

The interior of the Apollo RT6 without the steering wheel.

Baidu’s Apollo RT6 interior without the steering wheel. Image: Qian Jin/Baidu.

Baidu pushes its technology a step further

The Chinese giant is therefore the very first supplier to offer self-driving taxi services marketed and driverless in the evening in the Middle Kingdom. ” The generalization ability of Baidu’s self-driving technology has advanced at a more advanced pace than expected. Now, the time to deploy this technology in a new city is only 20 days said Wang Chong, head of Baidu Intelligent Driving Group.

The company’s autonomous driving system combines a mix of cameras, radars and lidars. Baidu is also working on the development of a visual language model to identify new objects. The company explains:

“The model will allow autonomous vehicles to quickly make sense of an unseen object, such as recognizing special vehicles (fire truck, ambulance), misdetecting plastic bags, and others. In addition, Baidu’s self-driving perception model – a sub-model of WenXin Big Model – which leverages more than 1 billion parameters, is able to greatly improve the generalization potential of self-driving perception. “.

Along with its major competitor, Baidu is enabling the autonomous driving industry to evolve quickly and efficiently in China, where regulations are increasingly favorable to this technology.




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