Baidu’s Apollo Gets Green Light To Test AD Cars In Beijing Without On-Board Safety Driver

Safety drivers will be able to remotely control each of the cars, if necessary, via 5G mobile networks New licences were granted by Beijing’s joint regulatory body in charge of AD cars testing, comprising the city’s Transport and Public Security bureaus

Baidu’s Apollo gets green light to test AD cars in Beijing without on-board safety driver

By Che Pan

Apollo, Baidu’s autonomous driving (AD) unit, has been granted five licences by authorities in Beijing to test five autonomous cars in designated areas within China’s capital city, without an on-board safety driver.

The development comes after Beijing’s municipal government last month revised regulations for the testing of AD vehicles, giving more scope for companies to replace on-board safety drivers with a remote person.

In Apollo’s case, five safety drivers will be able to remotely control each of the five cars if necessary via 5G mobile networks, according to a statement from Baidu on Monday. Baidu unveiled an autonomous car without an on-board safety driver in a live demonstration in September, with a remote controller taking over the vehicle for several minutes.

On-board safety drivers had previously been a compulsory requirement for AD cars in most Chinese cities. The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology stipulated in its first AD rules issued in April 2018 that an on-board safety driver must be ready to take over the vehicle at any time in case of system failure.

Baidu Apollo head does not see robotaxi commercialisation until 202516 Sep 2020

Beijing has taken a lead in the country’s rollout of next generation 5G networks, which promise higher capacity and reduced latency. The AD industry is high on the economic agenda in both China and the US, although fully autonomous technology has been hard to achieve due to the complexities inherent in navigating busy, real-world traffic environments.

The new licences were granted by Beijing’s joint regulatory body in charge of AD testing, comprising officials from the city’s Transport and Public Security bureaus. The traffic accident insurance level per vehicle has been set at 5 million yuan for testing on public roads and 10 million yuan (US$1.53 million) for highways.

Baidu Apollo rolled out robotaxi services in three suburban areas of Beijing in September, coming after AD services in Changsha in Hunan province and Cangzhou in Hebei province. High development costs for items such as lidars, sensors and on-board-computing units, means that profitability for robotaxi service providers is still some way off.

Li Zhenyu, Baidu Apollo’s head, has said previously the company is committed to the long term development of the industry and will supply some of its technologies to traditional carmakers it has partnered with.

Originally published at South China morning post

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