China’s capital eases robotics restrictions on Baidu, Pune, in a major step toward removing human taxi drivers 2022-04-27 21:20:00

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Chinese tech companies Baidu Apollo Go and Pony.ai announced Thursday they have received permission from Beijing city authorities to remove a safety driver for part of their robotics business in a part of a suburb of the city.

Vcg | China Optical Group | Getty Images

BEIJING – China’s capital has taken another step toward allowing ordinary people to drive in a driverless robotic car.

For the first time in the country, two Chinese companies – BaiduApollo Go and Pony.ai announced Thursday that they have received permission from Beijing city authorities to remove a safety driver for part of their robotics business in a part of the city’s suburbs.

Cars will still need an employee to sit inside, but not necessarily in the driver’s seat anymore.

It’s a step toward allowing companies to run their taxi business without having to pay employees to operate the cars – completely eliminating the cost of a taxi driver. It remains unclear when the Chinese government will allow robots to charge for trips without any human personnel in the cars.

In the United States, Alphabet’s Waymo and General Motors’ subsidiary Cruise subsidiary can operate a public automated axle without human personnel in the vehicles. Laws for testing robots and charging riders vary by city and state.

Waymo can charge customers for a robotic bot operating in Arizona, While Cruise awaits approval of a final permit to ship passengers in San Francisco.

Tu Le, founder of Beijing-based consultancy Sino Auto Insights, noted that GM’s Cruise can only operate a driverless robotic service in San Francisco at night, while Beijing’s latest easing of restrictions allows for a nearly driverless robotic vehicle. working during the day. .

This will allow Chinese operators to collect more data during periods of heavy traffic.

Under the new permit for the city of Beijing, Baidu said it can operate 10 purple vehicles without safe drivers, and plans to add another 30 vehicles at an unspecified later date.

A Pony.ai spokesperson said four automated axles can initially be operated without safe drivers under the new rules, and expects to add more in the future.

Beijing authorities in the suburban Yichuang district confirmed that Baidu and Boni.ai had obtained the approvals for the new robots at a press conference on Thursday. The government added the area of ​​operations three times to the equivalent of about 23 square miles.

Six busy months for changes in China’s robotics base

The rules for testing and operating a robotic robot also vary by region in China.

Beijing’s latest move comes less than six months after the municipality allowed Baidu and Pony.ai Charging for the automated axle in the suburb of Yizhuang. The approval of the fee collection was the first by a major city in China.

Baidu said its Apollo Go robotics business then began collecting fees in southwest China’s Chongqing municipality and the smaller city of Yangquan in central China in February. Cars still require a safe driver.

Sunday, Nansha District, Southern Guangzhou City Giving the Pony.ai-powered robot hub the same rating as traditional taxis The first license of its kind in China. The license allows Pony.ai to collect fees in the region. Cars currently have safe drivers.

– CNBC channel Michael Wayland Contribute to this report.

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