Fully automated taxi cabs are slowly rolling out around the world.
Baidu, Inc., a Chinese based company and the world’s largest robotaxi provider, announced its newest fully autonomous vehicle, the Apollo RT6, to be released in 2023. The all-electric vehicle is designed for urban environments and will be part of Baidu’s ride-sharing service Apollo Go.
The sixth-generation vehicle will cost $37,000, much less than current self-driving cars. Co-founder and CEO Robin Li hopes this vehicle will lower the cost of its taxi service and speed up autonomous vehicle (AV) deployment.
The Apollo RT6 features a removable steering wheel, allowing for a roomier riding experience, the company reported last week. With the extra space, Baudi can include features such as vending machines, additional seating, and gaming controls.
With 38 sensors, including 8 LiDAR road scanners and 12 cameras, the vehicle is able to detect its surroundings, allowing it to navigate urban environments. The vehicle has driven a total of 20 million test miles. The company estimates that its driverless system is comparable to a human driver with 20 years of experience.
Baidu’s Apollo Go is currently available in 10 Chinese cities.
In early June, a subsidiary of General Motors called Cruise obtained the first permits for self-driving taxis in San Francisco. Reuters reports that Cruise plans to launch 30 vehicles in the upcoming weeks.
Previously, driverless vehicles were permitted in the city, but a safety driver had to be present. Now, the vehicles can operate without this precaution, though they still have strict regulations limiting speed and location.
Google parent company Alphabet has Waymo, a driverless-taxi service that has been ferrying people around Phoenix, Arizona, since 2018, and has been driving its employees around San Francisco since March of this year, Reuters reports.
Opponents of self-driving vehicles cite safety concerns, arguing that the technology is not yet sufficient to handle certain situations.