March 8, 2023
Chinese internet giant Baidu’s autonomous ride-hailing platform Apollo Go is going from strength to strength, with the company announcing that it has now deployed more than 100 fully driverless robotaxis in the central city of Wuhan.
Baidu has made no secret of its ambitions in the self-driving arena in 2023. At its November Apollo Day event, it proclaimed its intent to develop the world’s largest fully driverless ride-hailing service area over the next 12 months.
And its progress in Wuhan illustrates that it is making great progress in delivering on this promise. The fleet is now operating on more than 750 kilometers of roads, covering an area of 204 square miles in the city, and providing fully driverless rides for nearly 1.5 million residents.
As might be expected, this wide coverage has resulted in significant growth in the number of orders, with each vehicle being hailed up to 20 times a day, in peak times. The robotaxis are operating in several diverse areas, including business districts, residential areas, industrial areas and universities, and feedback from users is reported to be extremely positive.
The rate of scaling has been particularly dramatic. It was only last August that Baidu gained approval to operate fully driverless commercial services in Wuhan – the first time such a permit had been granted in China. The commercial operation was expanded on a large scale in December, with the areas covered and the number of vehicles increased, and permission granted to run driverless services at night – another first for China.
Other locations are now likely to follow Wuhan’s expansion program, with Apollo Go operating in more than 10 cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Chongqing.
After the release of Baidu’s 2022 financial report, Robin Li, Co-founder and CEO, made clear that he expects the expanding Apollo Go program to contribute to accelerated growth over the next 12 months.
“With our long-term investments in AI, we are poised to capitalize on the imminent inflection point in AI, unlocking exciting new opportunities across our entire business portfolio – from mobile ecosystem to AI Cloud, autonomous driving, smart devices and beyond,” he said.
Meanwhile, market analyst Guidehouse Insights has ranked Baidu as one of the top vendors of Autonomous Driving System (ADS) technology in its latest report.
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