DRIVERLESS, automated taxis can be one of the solutions to public transportation in post-pandemic China.
At the capital of Changsha in the province of Hunan, China, commercial operation of self-driving taxis is being tested extensively and may find places in the future of public transportation in the province, and the whole country.
Operated by China’s biggest tech firms, Baidu, the Apollo Robotaxi only requires downloading a free app called “Dutaxi” to hail the driverless cab.
“The taxi ride went almost as smoothly as the regular one does,” Zhang Jun, a resident of Changsha shared.
“It’s really convenient service. The taxi arrived in just a few minutes after I typed in my destination address and pressed the ‘call-out’ button on the app.”
In late April this year, Baidu officially launched the service on a prototyping basis since the capital took concrete steps to boost its intelligent city program. The upside of the experiment is that it now has become a solution to social distancing in public transport after its trials when it becomes fully autonomous.
Residents in the city can hail the autonomous taxis and travel free of charge in a service area that about 130 square kilometers. According to a statement issued by the company its routes include multiple urban destinations, commercial zones, and industrial parks in the vicinity.
The driverless taxis for now have a ‘backup driver’ also called a ‘security person’ who is ready to take manual control in the event of an emergency. This is only to be able to comply with current traffic regulations. In the future it is expected that these taxis will be completely unmanned.
Baidu started testing it’s the robot taxi fleet in September last year. The first 45 self-driving taxis deployed unmanned, but later had to comply with local regulations. Apart from Changsha, Baidu is testing autonomous driving with passengers in Beijing, Cangzhou in North China’s Hebei province, and other places.
Aside from Changsha, road tests for self-driving vehicles are available in more than 20 provinces and cities in China, and six cities-Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Wuhan and Cangzhou-have allowed passenger-carrying tests on autonomous vehicles.
Chinese big car makers SAIC Motor, BMW, Didi Chuxing and DeepBlue Technology, also have obtained such plates for passenger-carrying tests.
Changsha was one of the provinces selected for the self-driving taxi program because it has, since 2016, proposed building a city with autonomous driving vehicles. Its robust city plan already included the intelligent connected vehicle (ICV), road and Cloud computing in its infrastructure development.