Beijing begins pilot for paid robotaxi services

BEIJING, 25 Nov 2021:

China today launched its first pilot for commercial self-driving cab services in Beijing, designating about a 20 sq km circuit area in the capital for the paid driverless taxis to ply.

It marks the end of the testing phase for autonomous cars and lets tech giants Baidu and Pony.ai provide services and charge passengers.

The Beijing automated driving circuit extends along 100km of roads in the southeast of the capital.

The passenger experience riding in the cabs was similar to “taking a bus,” the official CCTV said.

Wang Shengnan, director of autonomous car operations at Baidu, said the company avoided marking halts in accident-prone areas since “passenger safety is the priority.”

Not surprisingly, “any type of accident” involving the vehicles will be on the licensed company, Teng Xuebei, representative of Pony.ai, told local media.

Jie Fei, deputy director of the Beijing High-level Autonomous Driving Demonstration Area, said they marked the circuit for its “low traffic density.”

But driverless vehicles should “avoid operating in the morning and afternoon rush hours,” Jie said.

In addition, such vehicles must “conspicuously” display the nature of autonomous test cars on their bodywork.

For now, service providers have to assign a security operator behind the wheel and remain attentive to the road despite not driving, Jie said.

Reduced fares are on the offer during the pilot phase. A journey that would cost around 30 yuan (US$4.70) costs less than two yuan.

Beijing has, so far, approved the test operation of 180 vehicles in the capital, and other cities such as Shanghai have launched similar pilot circuits.

– EFE