June 20, 2023
Two of China’s leading companies in automated driving have confirmed significant further breakthroughs.
Internet giant Baidu has announced that its fully driverless self-driving taxis have been granted a license to operate commercially in the southern city of Shenzhen.
Meanwhile, in terms of tech for cars for private buyers, XPeng is celebrating the availability of its City Navigation Guided Pilot (NGP) advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) in the capital city of Beijing.
Shenzhen, a megacity of 17 million people in Guangdong province just north of Hong Kong, has been one of China’s most proactive cities when it comes to automated vehicles, with authorities putting in place a groundbreaking regulatory framework for them last July.
The new license will allow the self-driving taxis to operate across an area of 72.5 square miles in the city from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, with users able to access the service via the Apollo Go app, and also Baidu Maps, the Baidu App and other platforms.
Baidu is optimistic that its license in Shenzhen will help further accelerate the rollout of its self-driving taxi business, which it has been vocal in promoting as the world’s largest. It says it aims to add another 200 vehicles to its fleet by the end of this year.
XPeng’s announcement underlines just how City NGP is also expanding its reach in China. XPeng is the first company to make this sort of tech commercially available, and its arrival on the ring roads and expressways of Beijing means it is now offered in four of China’s biggest cities, with Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Shanghai the others. It works via an array of sensors fitted to XPeng’s cars including cameras, lidar units and millimeter-wave radars, plus high-precision positioning.
The company attributes City NGP’s rapid progress to its XNet deep learning neural network, which is backed by China’s largest autonomous driving supercomputing center and its self-developed closed-loop AI and data system.
City NGP essentially offers the sort of advanced driver assistance we have become accustomed to seeing automakers offer on highways, but in the complex urban scenarios that are a feature of driving in China’s heavily populated and congested cities.
It can deliver a wide scope of functionality, including cruising at a safe distance from vehicles in front, changing lanes, handling merging or splitting roads, avoiding stationary vehicles or obstacles and detecting and reacting to traffic lights.
There is also the ability to take left or right turns, navigate intersections, roundabouts and tunnels, and keep clear of pedestrians or cyclists. Since its launch last year, it has constantly undergone evaluation and optimization, delivering improved capabilities.
According to XPeng, its goal is to expand to dozens of cities through the course of this year, with ADAS functions becoming available even in urban areas that do not have HD mapping coverage.
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