Baidu and Pony.ai separately announced that they had each obtained permits to provide their respective driverless taxi service to the general public in Beijing.
According to Baidu, it will start operating its fully autonomous taxi service with a fleet of 10 vehicles in a designated area of 60 square kilometers in Beijing. Users will be able to hail these robotaxis using the Apollo Go mobile app from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
There are plans to add another 30 robotaxis to its fleet at a later stage, Baidu said.
Previously, Baidu operated its fully self-driving taxi service at Shougang Park during the recent Beijing Winter Olympics. It has also been testing its self-driving vehicles since last October in areas such as Yizhuang, Haidian and Shunyi in Beijing.
Similarly, Pony.ai said it plans to operate a pilot in a 60 square kilometer area in Yizhuang, Beijing under the new permit. Passengers will be able to hail rides, which will be free, using the PonyPilot+ app from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pick-up and drop-off locations will include public facilities such as subway stations, parks and stadiums, as well as central business centers and residential areas.
Unlike Baidu, Pony.ai said it will retain a “safety supervisor”, who will sit in the front passenger seat of its robotaxis.
This new program adds to an existing test program in which Pony.ai can offer paid robotaxi services to the general public in Beijing. The company got the paid license in November last year.
Earlier this week, Pony.ai became the first self-driving company to obtain a taxi license in the Middle Kingdom.
The permit will allow Pony.ai to operate 100 self-driving vehicles as traditional taxis in Nansha, Guangzhou, from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., with fares charged according to the city’s standard taxi prices. Passengers will be able to hail rides and pay for the service through the PonyPilot+ app.
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