Baidu unveils autonomous vehicles without steering wheel

Baidu unveils autonomous vehicles without steering wheel

BEIJING, July 21 (Reuters) – China’s search engine giant Baidu Inc unveiled its new detachable autonomous vehicle (AV) on Thursday, with plans to use it for its robotic taxi service in China next year.

The cost per unit will drop to 250,000 yuan ($ 37,031.55) for the new model, compared to 480,000 yuan for the previous generation, Baidu said in a statement.

“This massive cost reduction will enable us to deploy tens of thousands of AVs across China,” said Baidu CEO Robin Li at the Baidu World Conference. “We are moving towards a future where taking a robotic taxi will be half the cost of taking a taxi today.”

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The new vehicle will have autonomous level 4 features that do not require human intervention, with 8 lidars and 12 cameras next to the car. Lidars are detection systems, similar to radars, that use pulsed laser light instead of radio waves.

The company did not disclose the manufacturer of the new model.

Tesla (TSLA.O) CEO Elon Musk said at a conference with investors in April that the company aims to start mass production of its robotic axle without steering wheel or pedals in 2024, and predicted that a trip by robotic taxi will cost less than a bus ticket .

Alphabet Incs (GOOGL.O) Waymo also unveiled a robotic taxi without a steering wheel last year, saying it planned to roll out its “fully autonomous vehicles” in the US in the coming years.

However, automakers and technology companies around the world are still waiting for nods from regulators to distribute such vehicles in the real world.

The vehicle will drive on the road without a steering wheel when the Chinese authorities approve it, Baidu Senior Vice President Li Zhenyu said at the conference, adding that the driving ability of Baidu’s new AV can match a skilled human driver with over 20 years of experience.

Baidu, which launched its autonomous vehicle unit Apollo established in 2017, is among a number of companies in China that strive to make mainstream use of autonomous vehicles a reality.

Competitors in this area include Pony.ai, backed by Toyota Motor (7203.T) and WeRide, which have received investments from Nissan Motor (7201.T) and Guangzhou Automobile Group (601238.SS).

Apollo Go, Baidu’s robotic axle service, has operated over 1 million in 10 Chinese cities since its launch in 2020, and Baidu said in April that it had received permission to deploy robotic axes without people in the driver’s seat on open roads in Beijing.

($ 1 = 6.7510 Chinese yuan yuan)

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Reporting by Yingzhi Yang and Brenda Goh; Edited by Chizu Nomiyama and Stephen Coates

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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