Robotaxis to take over Beijing streets

Baidu and Pony.ai have been granted permission to operate robotaxi services in Beijing

Autonomous cars are in for a revolution of sorts in China. The Asian Communist nation has granted permission to two players in the driverless car terrain to operate their services along the roads of Beijing.

The two companies that have been given permission to operate robotaxi services in Beijing are Baidu and Pony.ai. This means residents of Beijing will soon get to see or travel in driverless cars. The permission gas been granted with a catch, though.

The permission to operate autonomous vehicles without safety drivers in Beijing, which is termed as a first for robotaxi services in China comes with the clause that though the taxis can be driverless, a human supervisor needs to be present inside the cars.

Robotaxis will need supervisor inside

This would mean that though Baidu and Pony.ai will not have to hire drivers for the autonomous cars that would zip along Beijing streets, they will have make sure they recruit personnel who would be qualified to perform their roles as supervisors.

As an initial measure, the authorities in Beijing have also decided to allow Baidu and Pony.ai to operate along a certain distance only. The tow companies will have to restrict their services inside a 60 square kilometer area in Yizhuang, Beijing, where more than 300,000 people live. The authorities have also asked Baidu to operate just 10 autonomous vehicles in the area, while Pony.ai will have to cut the number down to four.

Companies hope to add more driverless cars

It looks like this is a test case scenario, and later on, if found safe and viable, these companies might be allowed to operate more driverless taxis. In anticipation, Baidu is looking to up the number to 30 cars as and when it is permitted to do so.

The latest permission to allow Baidu and Pony.ai to operate driverless cars in Beijing may be seen as a second step. The companies had earlier been allowed to charge for their robotaxi services in the Yizhuang area of Beijing last November. The requirement was that the cars will always have a safety driver behind the wheel.

Now that they have been allowed to operate fully autonomous vehicles along Beijing’s roads, it looks like the day of the robotaxi has arrived, in China.

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