The dream of self-driving cars is quickly becoming a reality. It’s a battle dominated by Chinese and American companies working round the clock to bring them to the streets.
Chinese tech giant Baidu has been granted authority to operate self-driving taxis without safety supervisors on board in the cities of Wuhan and Chongqing. The approval marks a relaxation of Chinese rules on the operation of robotaxis which previously required that a human driver needed to be in the vehicle to take control in case of emergency.
“It’s as if we’ve landed on the moon and built a base there,” said Baidu Intelligence Driving Group vice president Wei Dong, “It’s just a matter of time for us to go to Mars or even beyond our solar system.”
Baidu runs China’s most popular search engine and has been at the forefront of several groundbreaking technology developments.
The robotaxis will run in designated areas during the daytime when there is more traffic on the road, the company said. The robotaxis developed by the company’s autonomous driving unit, Apollo Go has multilayer security features to deal with emerging safety challenges.
“This is a tremendous qualitative change. We believe these permits are a key milestone on the path to the inflexion point when the industry can finally roll out fully autonomous driving services at scale.”
Besides Baidu, Pony.ai has also continuously experimented with autonomous cars in china, hoping to be among the first to break into the potentially promising mobility solution of the future.