Baidu, (BIDU) debuted Apollo Robotaxi in Changsha, Hunan province, with the first batch of 45 self-driving taxis officially starting trial operations on urban roads. Apollo Robotaxi deploys L4 Hongqi EV vehicles jointly developed with Chinese carmaker FAW.
Ride hailing is now open for trial by the general public in Changsha, with the fleet of robotaxis able to perform a range of intelligent self-driving functions, including changing lanes based on road and traffic conditions, assessing the movement of nearby vehicles and employing automatic avoidance when encountering aggressive overtaking by other vehicles. With safety as a top priority, a human operator is also assigned to each robotaxi to take control of the autonomous system in situations that could affect the safety of passengers or the vehicle itself.
“The robotaxi trial operations in Changsha demonstrate that the Apollo Robotaxi is progressing from research and development to a market reality, which will serve to provide rich feedback from real-world scenarios. Throughout the entire process, we have been and will always be committed to safety first and foremost,” said Zhenyu Li, Vice President of Baidu and General Manager of its Intelligent Driving. “Intelligent driving is a great journey, and marks a solid step forward. We will continue to work together with our partners with the aim of bringing a safer, more comfortable and more efficient autonomous driving experience to all.”
Apollo Robotaxi is set to offer passenger rides in a pilot zone in Changsha covering a total area of 70km² and 135km-long open roads – making it the largest in China with the most extensive coverage of complex road conditions and the most advanced vehicle-infrastructure cooperative systems. Within the pilot zone, the trial operation will cover around 50km by the end of 2019 and, in the first half of 2020, Apollo Robotaxi will cover the entire 135km stretch open to autonomous driving.
The collaboration between Baidu and FAW has long been advancing the acceleration of the robotaxi. The Hongqi EV fleet, jointly developed with FAW Hongqi, represents China’s first volume production of preinstalled L4 autonomous driving vehicles. Hongqi EV is the latest product of Apollo’s autonomous driving technology, realized through a synergy of software and hardware capabilities, preinstallation production capacity, fluid human-vehicle interface, a safety guarantee and the multifaceted upgrade and optimization of fleet management via the cloud. With a factory-installed customized Apollo OBU (On-Board Unit), the L4 Hongqi EV can carry out L4 V2X communication with intelligent roadside equipment and achieve a seamless interplay between vehicle and infrastructure.
Baidu and FAW Hongqi have worked closely to redesign both the installation scheme of the autonomous driving unit for the robotaxi as well as the electrical/electronic architecture of the entire vehicle. The companies are now able to optimally integrate the two sections during factory installation, addressing issues including signal interference and detachment caused by modification and dismounting
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