Chinese web giant Baidu has commenced operations of actual autonomous taxis on the streets of Beijing.
The Apollo robo-taxi service only operates in Shougang Park, an area of the capital city that will host some events in the 2022 Winter Olympics. Just ten self-driving cars are rolling in this first commercial test of the tech.
The cars are summoned with an Uber-like app and offer level-four autonomy – meaning they can independently drive in predefined geo-fenced areas, and allow humans to take the wheel if they feel it necessary.
Baidu has shown off videos of the cars, which are medium-sized SUVs, stopping at pedestrian crossings at night, handling city and highway traffic with ease, and happily navigating tunnels. The tech titan claims its cars can change lanes all by themselves, park automatically, handle complex intersections, and drive in smoky conditions.
The cars use LIDAR; cameras facing forward, backwards, and laterally; and radar using both ultrasound and millimetre wave radio.
Reports from the Chinese media say the cars have not been troubled by pedestrians and have not posed a problem, natch.
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The tech platform used by the cars is open, and available on GitHub if you fancy taking it for a spin.
Baidu plans to expand its service into other Chinese cities in coming months. ®