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HomeAutomobileChina's capital metropolis Beijing has large plans for robotaxis, Pony.ai says

China’s capital metropolis Beijing has large plans for robotaxis, Pony.ai says


Baidu’s Apollo Go robotaxi, on the precise, operates within the Yizhuang suburban district of Beijing alongside Pony.ai’s model. The 2 autos are pictured right here in November 2021 shortly after Beijing allowed the businesses to cost fares.

Vcg | Visible China Group | Getty Pictures

BEIJING — China’s capital metropolis is taking swift steps to permit robotaxi companies to develop.

As of Tuesday, the suburban Beijing metropolis district of Yizhuang is formally letting native robotaxi operators — primarily Baidu and startup Pony.ai — cost fares for absolutely autonomous taxis, with no human workers inside.

That absolutely eliminates the price of a driver. Beforehand, industrial public-facing robotaxis had been required to have an worker to sit down inside with the passenger. Yizhuang district is about half an hour’s drive from downtown Beijing and is dwelling to companies reminiscent of JD.com.

Extra approvals for robotaxi operations within the metropolis are coming, mentioned Ning Zhang, vice chairman at Pony.ai and head of its Beijing analysis and growth middle.

“We now have very excessive confidence … possibly solely in three years, our full driverless autos are going to be working over the entire Beijing metropolis,” he mentioned in an interview with CNBC on Monday.

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Citing conversations with Beijing’s mayor, Zhang mentioned that by the top of the 12 months, town goals to broaden robotaxi testing areas to Daxing International Airport and round one prepare station.

In July, Beijing Mayor Yin Yong met separately with Pony.ai, Alibaba and Xiaomi to encourage their work in related automobiles, synthetic intelligence and different superior tech. That is in response to a state media report republished by Pony.ai on its official WeChat account.

The town has additionally beforehand introduced common plans to increase the testing area for robotaxis.

Lower than two years in the past, in November 2021, Beijing metropolis allowed the robotaxi operators to gather fares for public-facing rides, a primary step towards eliminating the price of the driving force. Folks can ebook extremely backed robotaxi rides from Baidu and Pony.ai in Yizhuang district through the businesses’ apps.

Out of greater than 200 robotaxis that Pony.ai operates within the area, solely about ten are at present absolutely driverless, Zhang mentioned. He famous that Beijing metropolis considers seven components in a phased technique of permitting public robotaxi operation, together with which seat the protection driver is sitting in and whether or not the automobile is getting used for testing or for industrial operation.

After preliminary testing, Zhang expects absolutely driverless robotaxis might function round Daxing airport subsequent 12 months.

Beijing metropolis didn’t instantly reply to a CNBC request for remark. Baidu didn’t share what number of absolutely driverless robotaxis it might function as of the announcement.

Robotaxi security

Within the U.S., San Francisco has been one of many main cities testing robotaxis. In August, California state authorities mentioned Alphabet’s Waymo and General Motors‘ Cruise might supply paid robotaxi providers in San Francisco and carry passengers all through town, 24 hours a day.

Shortly after, the California Division of Motor Autos mentioned Cruise must reduce its robotaxi fleet by 50% in San Francisco. The corporate’s self-driving autos had been lately concerned in a number of crashes.

Pony.ai’s Zhang claimed the startup has by no means had any absolutely driverless public-facing robotaxi accidents in China, and that it has the most effective security document on this planet.

When requested concerning the security document of different robotaxi operators in China, Zhang mentioned he couldn’t share particulars however mentioned opponents have had accidents.

When requested about its robotaxi security document in July, a consultant for Baidu referred CNBC to a report that didn’t present a lot readability on the problem.

Beijing Daxing Worldwide Airport lies south of downtown Beijing, designated by the yellow star, with the Yizhuang space close to the “G2” marker closest to downtown.

Google Maps

Constructing a security observe document that helps additional authorities permits for robotaxi operations depends closely on information.

Pony.ai’s Zhang mentioned the corporate cleans its information by eradicating delicate data reminiscent of automobile license plate numbers and information associated to the identification of an individual — together with erasure of faces from movies.

He mentioned solely a restricted group of individuals have entry to delicate information and that China information stays in China, whereas any U.S. information stays within the U.S.

Pony.ai claims it has a valuation of $8.5 billion as of March 2022. Zhang mentioned the corporate goals to interrupt even by 2025.

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Chinese language tech large Baidu operates robotaxis, branded Apollo Go, in different cities in China and claims to have run greater than 3.3 million rides.

In June, the tech large mentioned it acquired approval to function robotaxis with out workers in a suburb of Shenzhen. That adopted related approval in August 2022 to take away human workers in some robotaxis in components of Wuhan and Chongqing.

Pony.ai additionally operates robotaxis in Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Shanghai, Zhang mentioned.

— CNBC’s Kif Leswing and Lora Kolodny contributed to this story.



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