SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Chinese tech group Baidu Inc and standalone startup Pony.ai have gained approval to launch paid driverless robotaxi services that will see companies deploy no more than 100 vehicles in an area in China’s capital Beijing .
The state-backed Beijing Daily reported on the approvals on Thursday, citing a ceremony hosted by the Beijing Economic and Technological Development Zone, where the 60-square-kilometer (23-square-mile) area is located.
Baidu said in a statement that this will be the first commercial deployment of its Apollo Go service on open roads.
Customers will be able to flag down any of the 67 cars in the daily service at more than 600 pickup and drop-off points in commercial and residential areas, he said. It will charge similar rates at high-end ridesharing services in China, a Baidu spokesperson added.
Pony.ai, backed by Toyota Motor Corp, has also confirmed that it has received approval from Beijing for its Xiaoma Zhixing service on its official Weibo account.
Automakers and tech companies are investing billions of dollars in autonomous driving, with the goal of quickly taking the lead in what many see as the future of mobility.
Baidu launched paid driverless robotaxi services in May https://www.reuters.com/business/autos-transportation/chinas-baidu-launch-paid-driverless-ride-hailing-services-beijing-2021-04- 29 in a much smaller area of ââ2.7 square kilometers in Beijing’s Shougang Park. The company aims to have the Apollo Go service in 65 cities by 2025 and 100 cities by 2030, CEO Robin Li said in his latest quarterly results.
Last week, Chinese autonomous vehicle startup AutoX, which is backed by the Alibaba Group, said it has expanded its robotaxi area https://www.reuters.com/technology/chinas-weride-launch-robotaxis-gacs-ontime -ride-hailing- app-2021-11-18 in the southern city of Shenzhen to become the largest fully driverless robotaxi area in the country, at 65 square miles (168 square km).
(Reporting by Brenda Goh; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)