Baidu’s robotaxis can now operate without a safety driver in the car

has received approval to operate a fully driverless service in China. It is the first company in the country to receive such permits. As early as April, Baidu had operated an autonomous taxi service in Beijing, provided a human operator was in the driver or passenger seat. Now it will be able to offer a service where the only occupants of the car are passengers.

There are some restrictions on permits. Apollo Go driverless vehicles will carry fare-paying passengers through designated zones in Wuhan and Chongqing during the day only. The service areas cover 13 square kilometers in Wuhan’s Economic & Technological Development Zone (WHDZ) and 30 square kilometers in Chongqing’s Yongchuan District. The WHDZ has been revamped over the past year to support AV testing and operations.

Baidu says its robotic taxis have multiple safety measures to support core autonomous driving functions. These include redundancy monitoring, remote control capability, and a security operating system.

This is a notable step forward for Baidu as it intends to offer robotaxi services on a large scale. The company has also been testing its vehicles in the US for several years and could ultimately prove to be a competitor to Waymo and Cruise.

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