Baidu, a leading Chinese tech company, has announced the launch of its robotaxi service in a part of Beijing with no human driver or staff inside. This move by the company eliminates the labor cost for operating self-driving taxis, making it a cost-effective alternative to traditional ride-hailing services.
The government has initially approved ten robotaxis to operate in the Beijing suburb of Yizhuang, where Baidu conducts its robotaxi public road testing.
Expanding Public Road Testing and Operations
Yizhuang is a significant site for Baidu’s robotaxi public road testing and operations in Beijing, home to many corporations such as JD.com.
In November 2021, local authorities allowed Baidu and its rival robotaxi operator Pony.ai to charge fares for rides, and public transport users can book subsidized robotaxi rides through the companies’ apps.
Baidu has claimed that its self-driving taxis complete more than 15 rides per vehicle per day, which is on par with traditional ride-hailing services, in major Chinese cities since the third quarter.
The company received approval in August to operate a few driverless and staff-less robotaxis in the suburbs of significant Chinese cities like Wuhan and Chongqing.
Global Expansion of Self-Driving Taxis
In the United States, laws for testing robotaxis and charging riders vary by city and state. Alphabet’s Waymo and General Motors’ subsidiary Cruise have been operating public robotaxi services with no human staff inside.
Baidu’s expansion into self-driving taxis is part of its global expansion strategy, enabling it to compete with tech giants worldwide.
Stocks Soar After Robotaxi Launch
Baidu’s announcement has positively impacted the company’s stock market, with stocks soaring by over 15% during Hong Kong trading on Friday.
However, the stock closed at an eight-week low on Thursday after the company revealed its AI-powered Ernie bot, a Chinese-language rival to ChatGPT. Baidu CEO Robin Li acknowledged that the company’s Ernie bot was not perfect and emphasized the need to improve the product.
Baidu’s launch of robotaxis in Beijing is a significant milestone for the company and the autonomous vehicle industry. With the elimination of labor costs for operating self-driving taxis, Baidu is poised to compete with traditional ride-hailing services worldwide.
The company’s expansion into driverless and staff-less robotaxis is part of its global expansion strategy to remain competitive with tech giants worldwide. As Baidu and its competitors continue to innovate and refine their self-driving technologies, the future of transportation seems poised for a major shift.