China: Chinese technology giant Baidu has unveiled the next vehicle to join its self-driving taxi service, the Apollo Go.
The company says that its new model, the Apollo RT6, has the road skills of a driver with over 20 years of experience. Under Chinese regulation, autonomous cars still require the presence of a safe driver.
But one day, Baidu says, the RT6’s detachable steering wheel could be replaced with extra seats, vending machines, desks or game consoles.
Each Apollo RT6 would cost 250,000 yuan (£31,000) – significantly less than previous models, Baidu said.
“This massive cost reduction will enable us to deploy tens of thousands of [automated vehicles] across China,” co-founder and chief executive Robin Li told the company’s annual technology conference.
“We are moving towards a future where taking a Robo-taxi will be half the cost of a taxi today.”
Baidu wants the RT6 to join its existing fleet in the second half of 2023 for a small-scale trial and plans eventually to have 100,000 of them on the roads.
The vehicle is packed with 38 sensors, including:
- Eight light-detection and ranging (lidar) sensors
- a 6 mm (0.2in) wave radar
- 12 ultrasonic sensor
- 12 camera
Baidu says its Robo-taxi, which is run on a trial basis in 10 cities in China, including Shenzhen, Shanghai and Beijing, has delivered more than a million rides since its service launched in 2020.
Other companies in the Robo-taxi sector in China include: Chinese tech giant Alibaba backs AutoX.Pony.ai, founded by former Google and Baidu engineers and supported by Toyota