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Baidu rolls out driverless taxi service in two Chinese cities

ZDNet

Baidu has rolled out commercial driverless taxi services in the Chinese cities of Wuhan and Chongqing, expanding the transport option beyond the country's capital Beijing. The launch comes this week with the government releasing China's first draft guidelines on the use of self-driving vehicles for public transport. Baidu said in a statement that it secured regulatory approvals to collect fares for its driverless taxi service Apollo Go in the two Chinese cities. The autonomous vehicle manufacturer's vice president and chief safety operation officer of intelligent driving group, Wei Dong, said: "Fully driverless cars providing rides on open roads to paying customers means we have finally come to the moment the industry has been longing for. We believe these permits are a key milestone on the path to the inflection point when the industry can finally roll out fully autonomous driving services at scale."


AI: China vs The West

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Anyone who has followed the ascent of Chinese businesses in recent years is aware that they have outpaced their Western competitors in terms of the fervour with which they have thrown themselves into initiatives using artificial intelligence. Although it's true that companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple are also seen as necessary players in the "AI game," it doesn't seem unreasonable to anticipate that they will be dethroned in the upcoming years. A glance at the actions of the three major Chinese digital firms, Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent, provides evidence for this. We cannot overlook the reality that these firms are in charge of the second-largest economy in the world, despite the fact that they have not yet made big moves toward Western markets, making their brands even less well-known at home. The most well-known use of Baidu is as the Chinese version of Google.


The Morning After: Amazon buys the company behind Roomba robot vacuums

Engadget

Amazon made a $1.7 billion offer for iRobot, the company that makes Roomba robot vacuums, mops and other household robots. The deal will keep Colin Angle as iRobot's CEO but is still contingent on the approval of regulators and iRobot shareholders. Founded in 1990 by MIT researchers, the company initially focused on military robots like PackBot. It marked a major turning point in 2002 when it unveiled the first Roomba -- the debut robovac racked up sales of a million units by 2004. The company eventually bowed out of the military business in 2016.


Baidu's robotaxis can now operate without a safety driver in the car

Engadget

Baidu has obtained permits to run a fully driverless robotaxi service in China. It says it's the first company in the country to obtain such permissions. Back in April, Baidu received approval to run an autonomous taxi service in Beijing, as long as there was a human operator in the driver or front passenger seat. Now, it will be able to offer a service where the car's only occupants are passengers. There are some limits to the permits.


Shenzhen accelerates China's driverless car dreams

#artificialintelligence

The vehicle is one of a hundred sensor-laden robotaxis belonging to start up DeepRoute.ai On the car's dashboard they look like small 3D blue blocks from a 1990s video game. The steering wheel turns itself a notch and the vehicle slows to a gentle halt, while the safety driver looks on from the passenger seat. The vehicle is one of a hundred sensor-laden robotaxis belonging to start up DeepRoute.ai While the United States is regarded as taking an early lead in testing autonomous vehicle (AV) technology, in Shenzhen the industry appears to be changing gears, with trial robotaxis fast becoming a common sight.


The Download: Chinese robotaxi drivers, and AI gun detection

MIT Technology Review

When Liu Yang started his current job, he found it hard to go back to driving his own car: "I instinctively went for the passenger seat. Or when I was driving, I would expect the car to brake by itself," says the 33-year-old Beijing native, who joined the Chinese tech giant Baidu in January 2021 as a robotaxi driver. Robotaxi driver is an occupation that only exists in our time, the result of an evolving technology that's advanced enough to get rid of a driver--most of the time, in controlled environments-- but not good enough to convince authorities that they can do away with human intervention altogether. Liu is one of the hundreds of safety operators employed by Baidu, "driving" five days a week in Shougang Park. But despite having only worked for the company for 19 months, he already has to think about his next career move, as his job will likely be eliminated within a few years.


A day in the life of a Chinese robotaxi driver

MIT Technology Review

Robotaxi safety operator is an occupation that only exists in our time, the result of an evolving technology that's advanced enough to get rid of a driver--most of the time, and in controlled environments-- but not good enough to convince authorities that they can do away with human intervention altogether. Today, self-driving companies from the US, Europe, and China are racing to bring the technology to commercial application. Most of them, including Apollo, the self-driving arm of Baidu, have started on-demand robotaxi trials on public roads yet still need to operate with various constraints. With an associate degree in human resources, Liu has no academic training related to this job, But he has always loved driving, and he acted as the driver for his boss in a previous role. When he heard about the self-driving technologies, his curiosity pushed him to look up related jobs online and apply.


Global Big Data Conference

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Baidu, a Chinese search engine and artificial intelligence firm, unveiled its latest electric autonomous driving vehicle on Thursday. The Apollo RT6 will be soon be part of Baidu's robotaxi fleet, as China pushes forward with its autonomous driving ambitions. It is a fully electric vehicle with a steering wheel that can be removed or installed when required, and will cost 250,000 yuan ($37,000) per unit. "This massive cost reduction will enable us to deploy tens of thousands of autonomous vehicles across China," Robin Li, co-founder and CEO of Baidu, said at the firm's Baidu World conference Thursday. "We are moving towards a future where taking a robotaxi will be half the cost of taking a taxi today."


Baidu's latest robotaxi has a removable steering wheel

Engadget

Automakers are frequently keen to show off self-driving concept cars without steering wheels, but Baidu is close to putting a vehicle like this on real-world roads. The tech giant has unveiled a new robotaxi, the Apollo RT6, with a removable steering wheel. The option lets ride hailing services offer more space for passengers -- this can include extra seats, work desks or even game consoles. The Level 4 system (full self-driving under specific conditions) uses a total of 38 sensors, including eight LiDAR units and 12 cameras, to navigate dense urban environments. The company didn't mention range for the all-electric design, but the flat floor, sliding doors and "interactive" lights should make your commute more enjoyable.


Baidu reveals the next-gen robotaxi that will be deployed throughout China – TechCrunch

#artificialintelligence

Baidu, the Chinese search engine giant that has plowed money into AI and autonomous vehicle technology, unveiled Wednesday a new all-electric robotaxi that it plans to deploy at scale across China. Baidu will add the Apollo RT6 EV -- a cross between an SUV and a minivan that comes with a detachable steering wheel -- to its Apollo Go ride-hailing service next year. The new battery-electric robotaxi is Baidu's sixth-generation autonomous vehicle and the first model built on its Xinghe self-driving platform. The automaker said that developing the battery-electric architecture in-house helped trim production costs to a manageable $37,000 per unit. Baidu said that recent advances in manufacturing have cut production costs, allowing it to eventually build and operate tens of thousands of robotaxis at scale across Chinese megacities including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen by next year.