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November 28, 2023
Self-driving company WeRide has been granted approval to commercially operate driverless taxis in the Chinese capital of Beijing.
The firm, headquartered in Guangzhou in the southern province of Guangdong, confirmed that it can now charge for its self-driving taxi service in Yizhuang, an area of Beijing that has become renowned as a pilot zone for automated transport.
The permit is the latest step in a process that began over a year ago. Initially, WeRide was allowed to carry out driverless road tests in the Beijing Intelligent Connected Vehicle Policy Pilot Zone in October 2022.
This meant locals could hail a fully driverless self-driving taxi via the WeRide app to go to designated locations such as subway stations, business districts and office parks across an area of 87 square miles.
The next step was being allowed to run high-speed tests to and from the city’s Beijing Daxing International Airport.
This enabled WeRide to operate autonomous shuttles on a round trip of 10.5 miles between the airport and the China International Exhibition Center earlier this year, ferrying VIPs to the World Intelligent Connected Vehicles Conference.
And now the company can commercialize its service in Yizhuang, with customers again using the company app to hail a ride. As before, the taxi will arrive at a specified pick-up point, and the passenger will have to verify their identity by scanning a QR code to gain entry to the vehicle.
Up to three passengers can be accommodated at any one time, and again they will be able to specify a designated destination – there are 242 in total.
Operating hours initially will be between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. and although the taxis will not have a human behind the wheel, they will be monitored remotely to ensure safety.
The permit is the latest success for WeRide in Beijing, after being granted permission to operate a Level 4 autonomous bus there earlier this year.
The company claims to be China’s longest-established self-driving taxi company, having launched its first one in November 2018, before starting a commercial service in Guangzhou the following year. It says it has already completed more than 1,400 days of commercial operation without any proactive accidents.
Beijing is becoming yet another Chinese hub for self-driving taxis, with Baidu and Pony.ai granted approval to operate unmanned services there earlier this year after smaller cities such as Wuhan and Chongqing had blazed a trail for regulatory approval.
It’s a stark contrast to the situation in the United States, where Cruise’s problems have created an air of uncertainty about the robotaxi rollout.
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