So-called robotaxis are spreading across China. Tech giant Baidu, better known for its search engine and sometimes referred to as the Google of China, is one of the companies testing a self-driving taxi service.

Baidu is currently testing its self-driving taxis in 10 cities across the country, and has received approval to roll out fully driverless vehicles in the major metros of Wuhan and Chongqing.

In the capital Beijing, where the company is located, the law still requires a person to sit in the front passenger seat – but they don’t have much to do.

A computer is completely in charge of navigation, with sensors, radar and cameras installed throughout the car. Advances in technology mean that the latest models cost only $37,000 – almost half as much as the previous generation. The fall in prices is paving the way for mass production.

The Baidu service itself provides an experience similar to ride-share apps like Uber. You download an app to your smartphone, indicate your location and destination, and a car appears. At this stage, the difference is that Baidu customers have to choose from a list of existing stops, like bus stops, rather than choosing a specific location they want to arrive at.

CBS News tried out Baidu service in Beijing, and then did the same route in a traditional cab with a single driver, for comparison.

Baidu travel itself was smooth, but a bit slow compared to the old-fashioned way.

A screen in the rear seats provides a visual representation of how Robotaxi’s software is scanning and surveying the space around the vehicle to detect other cars, humans, bikes and anything else in the way Can go

Other customers expressed generally positive views of CBS News’ service, calling it convenient and user-friendly, although they said more available “stops” should be added to the routes. None of them expressed any concern about safety.

Baidu claims it has already completed 1 million rides since launching the service five years ago, and it plans to expand to dozens more Chinese cities by 2030.

A report from the Boston Consulting Group on robotic services in general states that our societies will benefit from them, thanks to less congested and more livable cities, thanks to the vehicles themselves, at least, on electricity rather than fossil fuels. running, which will cut down on urban air pollution.

Self-driving taxis won’t be the only robots on China’s roads. US As of now, food delivery services are already testing small autonomous vehicles in China that could soon deliver everything from coffee to pizza to people.

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