Greenlighted by Beijing, Baidu Kicks Off Its Robotaxi Business

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Beijing’s municipal government has approved on Thursday a permit for Baidu’s Apollo Go robotaxi business to collect fares in a part of the capital city, greenlighting a major step for the Chinese tech giant toward building its driverless taxi business.

Baidu has been offering free robotaxi rides in Yizhuang since October 2020.

The regulatory approval from China’s capital for robotaxis to charge the public for rides comes at a time when US local governments have been progressing in a similar direction.

Yet, Baidu’s Intelligent Driving Group’s VP and chief security operation officer, Wei Dong, pointed that Beijing city’s move carries additional weight since it sets the stage for other cities like Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen to do the same,

He expects these cities to follow Beijing’s suit later this year or early next year.

Though the company didn’t disclose exact pricing, it was said that Baidu’s Apollo unit of 67 self-driving cars in Beijing’s suburban district of Yizhuang would charge fares comparable with those of the premium level ride-hailing offered through apps like Didi, which can be double the price of ordinary rides.

Baidu’s robotaxi app “Luobo Kuaipao,” has offered on Wednesday a sample fare of 34 yuan ($5.31) for a 3K ride while Didi’s sample premium level fare for the same route is a bit lower at 27 yuan.

According to data presented by Wei, more than 20,000 users in Yizhuang has already become regular users of the new self-driving taxi while it was free, using its services at least 10 times a month, but it remains to be seen how many of them will keep using it when they have to pay for the ride.

Yet, the company’s obviously quite enthusiastic and optimistic about the paid service prospects since it aims to get an additional 100 robotaxi cars verified each year.

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