The Baidu Launches Self-Driving Cars Shuttles Buses
Chinese Internet search giant Baidu launched the multi-modal mobility-as-a-service pilot program in Guangzhou, China this week. The program integrates several different autonomous vehicle platforms using the company’s Apollo “autonomous driving solution”. Residents of Guangzhou can use the integrated app to access robotaxis, automatic shuttles, self-driving buses, autonomous police robots, and even driverless vending trains.
The pilot represents Baidu’s latest step towards integrating a wide range of vehicle platforms that support Apollo self-driving technology. Apollo has 210 global partners, including several Chinese automotive firms as well as Western companies such as BMW, Ford and Toyota.
Apollo’s large roster of partners underscores an aspiration that Apollo will become an open-source standard for autonomous driving. However, by far the most notable Apollo deployments have been managed by Baidu.
Mobility in Guangzhou as a service program is a step beyond previous deployments, that it pulls together different transport modalities and uses cases in a single service.
The service includes 40 individual vehicles of five different types:
Guangzhou residents can use any of these vehicles on their phones via the Baidu Maps app or the Apollo Go app.
Baidu operates 500 Apollo-powered vehicles, primarily in China, and with an engineering presence in Silicon Valley. Those vehicles have undergone a collective drive for 5 million miles of autonomous road testing.
In addition to Baidu’s new multi-modal service in Guangzhou, Apollo Robotaxis is open to the general public in Beijing, Changsha and Kangzhou. 210,000 public passengers have already traveled in Apollo Robotaxis.
Apollo vehicles in 27 additional Chinese cities are currently testing, without public passengers. The company plans to introduce public robotaxis in all those cities in the next three years.
Baidu refused to reveal its plans to launch a robotaxy service in the United States.
All publicly accessible Apollo Robotaxis currently work with a security operator in the vehicle. However, Baidu has received driverless test permits in Beijing, as well as other Chinese cities and California. In passenger-testing, the company has run approximately 30,000 driverless miles.
Apollo has initiated several projects to validate the effectiveness of the infrastructure in facilitating autonomous vehicles and traffic efficiency.
The organization has deployed smart traffic signals in Beijing, Changsha and Baoding. They directly monitor the environment through sensors and AI, which are mounted on the signals themselves. In a complementary program called V2X Communications, smart traffic signals exchange information with Apollo self-driving vehicles through a 5G cellular network to manage and improve traffic flow.
Baidu reports that preliminary experiments indicate a 30% reduction in maximum traffic, and a 10% increase in overall traffic efficiency as a result of smart traffic signals and V2X communications.
Zhenyu Li, general manager of Baidu’s Intelligent Driving Group, predicted that, “V2X will reduce the high cost of autonomous vehicles and provide more guaranteed safety through redundancy.”
Baidu founder and CEO Robin Li estimates that V2X Transportation Infrastructure could increase China’s GDP by 4.8%.
In addition to its work in autonomous driving, Baidu is also building a market-leading presence in Chinese automotive software for traditional vehicles. Baidu’s DuerOS Internet-of-Things software platform is the flagship of vehicle in-infotainment platforms in China. The company has one lakh vehicles running DuROS, with 600 vehicle models across 70 manufacturers.
DuerOS powers the vehicle information system, and provides Google GOOG + 0.4% assistants and voice-enabled AI support similar to Amazon Alexa.