Yes, you read that headline correctly. There are now fully autonomous taxis operating in China. This was made possible thanks to tech giant Baidu who recently launched the self-driving taxi service.
Called the Apollo Go Robotaxi, the autonomous transport is currently seeing service in Beijing’s Shougang Park - one of the venues for the 2022 Bejing Winter Olympics. But wait, how can customers hail a ride if there's no driver?
With the use of the Apollo Go App, users can locate a nearby autonomous taxi in the vicinity and hail a driverless ride. They can then track the robotaxi’s location via GPS, as well as use a remote honking function of the horn. Once the autonomous taxi has stopped in front of the users, they can unlock its doors by scanning a QR code on the car.
Once they’re boarded, riders can click the ‘Start The Journey’ button to get to their destination. To ensure the safety of the passengers, the vehicle will only move once the seat belts are fastened, and the doors are shut. In addition, a 5G remote driver service is always online to make sure human operators can remotely access the vehicle in case of emergencies.
“Introducing unmanned services is an indispensable stage for the commercialization of autonomous driving. Today, we are opening the fully driverless robotaxi services in Beijing for the public, which we achieved only after conducting countless scalable driverless tests in many cities over a long period of time,” said Yunpeng Wang, vice president and general manager of Autonomous Driving Technology at Baidu.
In the future, Baidu plans to launch its driverless taxi service throughout more cities in China. Baidu believes that not only will this make for a greener and more environmentally-friendly cityscape, but it will also help people have access to unmanned public transport easily and safely.
Still not convinced that Baidu’s autonomous robotaxi service is high-tech? Guidehouse, a global consulting firm, named Baidu as one of the top autonomous driving vendors in the world. Baidu has been granted 2,900 patents for intelligent driving tech. They have also established a fleet of 500 vehicles for autonomous vehicle trials.
Should an autonomous taxi service be available in the Philippines in the distant future, would you hail one to get to your destination? Or would you still prefer having a person behind the wheel of a taxi? At least with a driverless taxi, there's no chance of you being scammed.