Baidu and Pony.ai become the first robot taxi services to operate without security drivers in Beijing

Baidu and Pony.ai have been granted permission to operate their autonomous vehicles without safety drivers in Beijing, a first for robotic axi services in China (via CNBC). While both companies no longer require a staff member at the wheel, they do require an attendant present somewhere in the vehicle.

Baidu and Pony.ai cannot yet operate throughout the city of Beijing – they are limited to an area of ​​60 square kilometers in Beijing’s Yizhuang, which is home to about 300,000 residents. While Baidu can only deploy 10 autonomous vehicles in the area, CNBC says Pony.ai can serve only four. Both companies have plans to expand the number of vehicles on the road (with Baidu shooting for 30), but it’s unclear how soon that will happen.

Beijing authorities began allowing Baidu and Pony.ai to charge for their robotaxi services in Beijing’s Yizhuang area last November, although the city initially demanded that both services have a security driver behind it. had send. According to TechCrunchriders can greet the robotaxi service through Baidu’s Apollo Go app from 10am to 4pm, or with Pony.ai’s PonyPilot Plus app from 9am to 5pm.

Last week, Toyota-backed Pony.ai became the first autonomous car company to win a taxi license in China. It was given permission to drive 100 vehicles in Nansha, Guangzhou, and says a security driver will be on board for a short time. Pony.ai has been approved to test its autonomous vehicles without safety drivers in three California cities, but its permit was revoked after one of its cars collided with a center screen.

Baidu, the company behind the massive Chinese search engine of the same name, also received approval to test its vehicles without safety drivers in Sunnyvale, California. It joins a number of other autonomous vehicle companies, such as Waymo and Cruise, that can operate fully self-driving vehicles on the streets of California.

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