Baidu Launches Self-Driving Cars, Buses, Vending, and New Species Robots.

Chinese Internet search giant Baidu introduced a multi-modal Mobility-as-a-Service pilot program in Guangzhou, China. The program integrates numerous autonomous vehicle platforms via Apollo, an “autonomous driving solution.” Guangzhou residents have access to robotaxis, automated shuttles, autonomous buses, autonomous police robots, and even driverless vending carts via integrated apps.

The pilot is Baidu's most recent move to integrate the numerous vehicle platforms that its Apollo self-driving solution supports. With 210 global partners, Apollo includes Western enterprises like BMW, Ford, Toyota, and many Chinese organizations.

Baidu’s Self-driving Bus

China's first self-driving bus operation arrival in Yongchuan, in the Chongqing Municipality in Southwest China, is considered a significant step in China's commercialization of autonomous driving technology. The robobus is 5.9 meters long and designed for open-road operations. The robobus would stop on its own, navigate difficult urban traffic patterns, and ultimately match all requirements for standard bus operation.

Four two-millimeter wave radars and seven monocular cameras have been mounted on the self-driving bus to enable it to identify diverse live information while driving. The robobus can capture real-time sensory data from all road users and reflect information about pedestrians, cars, and other traffic information, including blind spots that are hidden from the driver's view.

Waiting time and traffic signal changes are shown on the inner screen, enabling vehicles to make accurate decisions and prior planning, improving traffic performance. The self-driving bus route that is currently being tested has a two-way distance of around 10 kilometers.

Apollo Go Robotaxis

Baidu has an engineering presence in Silicon Valley and runs 500 Apollo-powered vehicles, mainly in China. The self-driving vehicles have tested their autonomy on roads for 5 million miles. Apollo robotaxis are accessible to the general public in Beijing, Changsha, and Cangzhou in addition to Baidu's brand-new multi-modal service in Guangzhou. Apollo robotaxis have already carried 210,000 paying passengers.

Apollo vehicles are testing, albeit without public passengers, in 27 more Chinese cities. Over the following three years, the project is expected to provide public robotaxis in each of those cities. When asked about its plans to introduce a robotaxi service in the US, Baidu didn't provide any information.

Currently, a safety operator is present in every Apollo robotaxi that is open to the public. However, Baidu has been granted permission to test autonomous vehicles in California, Beijing, and other Chinese cities. The business has logged about 30,000 kilometers in testing without passengers.

Mobility As A Service In Guangzhou

The Guangzhou Mobility-as-a-Service programme surpasses earlier deployments in that it combines many types of transportation and use cases into a single service. The service consists of 40 unique autonomous vehicles divided into five categories:

FAW Hongqi Robotaxis.

Apolong Shuttles.

King Long Robobuses.

Apollocop Public Safety Robots.

New Species Vehicles: A versatile robot that can do everything from serving snacks to sweeping and sanitizing the street.

Residents of Guangzhou can use the Apollo Go or Baidu Maps apps on their smartphones to access any of these autonomous vehicles.

Autonomous Vehicles and Infrastructure

Apollo has worked on a number of initiatives to demonstrate how well infrastructure supports autonomous vehicles and traffic flow. Baidu installed Smart Traffic Signals in Beijing, Changsha, and Baoding. These signals monitor the environment directly through sensors and artificial intelligence. To control and optimize traffic flow, Smart Traffic Signals communicate with Apollo self-driving cars using 5G cellular networks as part of a complementing program known as V2X communication.

According to Baidu's initial tests, using Smart Traffic Signals and V2X communication reduces maximum traffic delays by 30% and improves total traffic efficiency by 10%. According to Zhenyu Li, general manager of Baidu's Intelligent Driving Group, V2X will lower the cost of autonomous vehicles and increase safety through redundancy. According to Robin Li, the founder, and CEO of Baidu, V2X transportation infrastructure could boost China's GDP by as much as 4.8%.

Social and Economic Impact of Autonomous Vehicles 

In the upcoming years, autonomous vehicles have the potential to make a huge impact on society. On the positive side, fewer accidents involving vehicles and better utilization of travel time might result in a societal gain of more than $750 billion annually. Additionally, autonomous vehicles don't require human interaction for their operation. This will allow people with visual or hearing disabilities to take advantage of autonomous vehicles, and they will become inclusive. Moreover, these vehicles will run on sustainable energy, carbon and greenhouse gas emissions will be almost nonexistent.

However, the strategies and regulations to support the deployment of automated vehicle technology will determine its viability. The pace and direction of adoption will be influenced by variables such as user confidence in the system, dependability, and security. Collaboration between several disciplines and stakeholders is essential to manage this shift.

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