Each company can only give rides in a 23 square mile radius
Soon commuters in China will be able to call for a taxi without anyone actually driving it. An autonomous driving startup Pony.ai along with company BAIDU announced that they have received permits from the Chinese government to provide robotaxi ride hailing services to the general public. The permits specifically state that they do not require a driver to be present in the car. The services are currently live and anyone with the company's apps can call for a taxi during daylight hours.
The official Baidu Inc. account on Twitter wrote “And… transform! #ApolloGo Robotaxis are ready to fly! With #5G Remote Driving and #V2X technology, Baidu's fleet of robotaxis are some of China's coolest cars”
And… transform! #ApolloGo Robotaxis are ready to fly!With #5G Remote Driving and #V2X technology, Baidu's fleet of robotaxis are some of China's coolest cars ???? pic.twitter.com/Od6PpV7kRh
Each company can only give rides in a 23 square mile radius and for now there will be an operator in the front passenger seat to take over the vehicle in case of any emergency. For promotional aspects the programs are being offered for free to riders. The permits mark a historic first step in the world's largest car market.
China has often been used as a testing ground for several self-driving vehicles. According to CNN, companies keep making more ambitious tests by removing the safety driver, opening up their services publicly or operating on public roads, and the number of miles their vehicles have been tested.
BAIDU has offered ride hailing services previously, but the autonomous vehicle required a human to still be present in the driver's seat. They had tested this in several cities including Beijing.
Another Chinese startup called AutoX had also rolled out fully driverless taxis on public roads in the city of Shenzhen in 2020 but that initiative was just for testing and could not accept regular passengers.