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Baidu's Apollo Go Robotaxis Are Now Deployed in All of China's Top Tier Cities After Launching in Shenzhen

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【Summary】​The Apollo Go robotaxi service launched by China's internet technology giant Baidu Inc. has expanded to Shenzhen’s Nanshan District, providing autonomous robotaxi services to commuters there for the first time. Shenzhen becomes the seventh major city where Baidu has introduced its robotaxi ride-hailing services in China, following previous launches in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chongqing, Changsha, and Cangzhou.

Eric Walz    Feb 17, 2022 4:15 PM PT
Baidu's Apollo Go Robotaxis Are Now Deployed in All of China's Top Tier Cities After Launching in Shenzhen

The Apollo Go robotaxi service launched by China's internet technology giant Baidu Inc. has expanded to Shenzhen's Nanshan District, providing autonomous robotaxi services to commuters there for the first time. 

Shenzhen becomes the seventh city where Baidu has introduced its robotaxi ride services in China, following Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chongqing, Changsha, and Cangzhou. 

Shenzhen's Nanshan District is home to some of the country's top tech companies, including Tencent and Huawei. It's also one of the most densely populated areas in south China which opens Apollo Go to more customers.

As a hub of innovation, the Nanshan District has a favorable policy environment for the deployment of self-driving vehicles, as well as a strong road network to support their operations. The area offers optimal conditions for the rapid implementation of robotaxi services and the rapid development of autonomous driving technology.

Apollo Go uses a similar model as ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft. Riders use an app to summon a driverless car and wait at a local station for the robotaxi vehicle to pick them up.

Users will be able to hail a robotaxi via the Apollo Go app at one of approximately 50 stations, with daily operating hours from 9am to 5pm. 

At launch, Apollo Go pickup and dropoff locations will be centered around key downtown spots such as Shenzhen Talent Park, covering the surrounding residential and commercial areas, including entertainment and cultural spots and other popular destinations, Baidu said.

The service area is set to expand to more than 300 stations by the end of 2022, meeting the ever-growing daily travel needs of Shenzhen residents.

Baidu has emerged as a leader in the development of autonomous driving technology in China. As a pioneer in China's autonomous driving development, Apollo autonomous vehicles have accumulated over 10 million test miles. Baidu plans to build an entire mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) ecosystem in China

In April 2021, global consulting firm Guidehouse named Baidu as one of the "top ten autonomous driving developers in the world." Others include Alphabet Inc's division Waymo, which spun out of Google's self-driving car project, and San Francisco-based Cruise, the autonomous driving unit of automaker General Motors.

Baidu's Apollo Go autonomous ride-hailing service has also been authorized to provide paid service in China's first-ever demonstration zone for commercial autonomous driving in Beijing. The autonomous vehicle commercial permit, granted by the head office of the Beijing High-level Automated Driving Demonstration Area (BJHAD), allows Baidu to collect fares within the designated area. 

Baidu also said it received over 400 other autonomous driving permits in China to scale its Apollo Go service.

The Apollo Go vehicles developed by Baidu are designed to operate completely autonomous, with no safety drivers on board. 

Since the Apollo Go vehicles are designed to operate without safety drivers on board, they're backed by a 5G-powered "Remote Driving Service". It allows a human operator to take over control of the vehicle remotely in the event the software encounters any unexpected obstacles during the trip, such as a stalled vehicle or lane closure due to construction.

In June of last year, Baidu revealed a fully-electric robotaxi SUV called "Apollo Moon" that will eventually be used in the expanding Apollo Go service. At the time, Baidu said the Apollo Moon EVs were a "monumental milestone in the large-scale commercialization of fully autonomous ride-hailing services in China." 

Baidu plans to deploy 1,000 Apollo Moon robotaxis over the next three years in China. The company plans to expand its Apollo Go operations into 65 cities across China by 2025 and 100 by 2030. 

In the third quarter of 2021 alone, Baidu's Apollo Go provided 115,000 rides, which made it the largest robotaxi service provider in the world, Baidu CEO, Robin Li, said in an earnings call. 

In August 2021 at the annual Baidu World conference, Li unveiled his vision for mobility of the future in the form of a futuristic "robocar" designed to make autonomous vehicles even more accessible to the broader public. Baidu says its robocar is capable of level 5 autonomous driving, meaning that no human intervention is ever required.

The robocar features automated gull-wing doors and a transparent glass roof to make the interior feel more spacious for passengers. Each vehicle includes a suite of external sensors for safe navigation on public streets. 

Li believes that robotaxi vehicles in the future will be more like "intelligent robots" rather than passenger vehicles. He predicts that these vehicles will one day "move, communicate and learn" using artificial intelligence. 

Baidu has been working on self-driving technology since launching its Apollo open autonomous driving platform in 2017. The open platform is designed to speed up the development of autonomous driving technology through collaboration with industry partners.

Since its launch in 2017, Apollo has grown to become the largest open-source autonomous driving platform in the world, according to Baidu. Among the global automakers contributing to the Apollo platform are BMW, Ford Motor Co, Toyota, Volkswagen, Honda, Intel Corp, and roughly 200 other companies.

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