Baidu autonomous taxi without steering wheel

New vehicle from Chinese search engine giant Baidu comes with Level 4 autonomous capabilities and detachable steering wheel

Chinese search engine giant Baidu unveiled its new autonomous vehicle (AV) with a detachable steering wheel on Thursday.

The Chinese giant plans to go live for its robotic axi service in China next year, after it gets approval from local regulators.

The Chinese company has long worked on developing its own hardware projects, and in 2017 Nvidia joined forces with Baidu to work on artificial intelligence (AI), spreading its use to cloud data centers and autonomous vehicles.

Baidu Apollo RT6 Taxi

Autonomous taxi

Baidu revealed at the time that it would utilize Nvidia’s Drive PX 2 autonomous driving platform in its own Apollo self-driving car platform.

Nvidia also provided Baidu with its Tesla Volta V1000 and Tesla P4 graphics accelerators, which use parallel processing to drive deep learning algorithms.

utilities Baidu has announced its next-generation autonomous vehicle, which will be ready next year to deliver driverless robotaxi service through Apollo Go, Baidu’s autonomous ride-hailing service.

Baidu said its Apollo RT6 is an all-electric, production-ready model with a detachable handlebar.

Designed for complex urban environments, the arrival of Apollo RT6 will bring the world closer to a future of driverless shared mobility.

Cheaper costs

The company said the unit cost 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 savings allows us to deploy tens of thousands of AVs across China,” said Robin Li, CEO of Baidu, at the Baidu World conference. “We are moving into a future where taking a robotic taxi will be half the cost of taking a taxi today.”

It looks like the new vehicle will have level 4 autonomous capabilities that don’t require human intervention, with 38 sensors including 8 lidars and 12 cameras to achieve highly accurate, long-range detection on all sides of the car.

Baidu Apollo RT6 Exterior

Baidu said the “safety and reliability of Apollo RT6 is supported by a vast wealth of real-world data, a total test mileage of more than 32 million kilometers (~20 million miles) driven by Baidu’s AV to date.”

The company said the wheel-less design frees up more space to create unique interiors, allowing the installation of additional seating, vending machines, desktops or game consoles.

Baidu Apollo RT6 Interior

It is not clear at the time of writing who makes the car.

Taxi competition

Tesla boss Elon Musk has previously said the company wants to start mass-producing its robotic axis without steering wheel or pedals in 2024, and predicted that a robotic axi ride will cost less than a bus ticket.

Alphabet’s Waymo also unveiled a steering wheelless robotic axle last year and said it plans to roll out its “fully autonomous vehicles” in the US in the coming years.

However, many companies around the world are still awaiting regulatory approval to deploy such vehicles in the real world.

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