Baidu’s robotaxis can now operate without a safety driver in the car

Baidu has obtained permits to run a fully driverless robotaxi service in China. It says it's the first company in the country to obtain such permissions. Back in April, Baidu received approval to run an autonomous taxi service in Beijing, as long as there was a human operator in the driver or front passenger seat. Now, it will be able to offer a service where the car's only occupants are passengers.

There are some limits to the permits. Driverless Apollo Go vehicles will ferry paying passengers around designated zones in Wuhan and Chongqing during daytime hours only. The service areas cover 13 square kilometers in Wuhan's Economic & Technological Development Zone (WHDZ) and 30 square kilometers in Chongqing’s Yongchuan District. The WHDZ has been overhauled over the last year to support AV testing and operations.

Baidu says its robotaxis have multiple safety measures to back up the core autonomous driving functions. Those include monitoring redundancy, remote driving capability and a safety operation system.

This is a notable step forward for Baidu as it looks to offer robotaxi services at a large scale. The company has also been testing its vehicles in the US for several years and it could ultimately prove a competitor to the likes of Waymo and Cruise.

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