Baidu received approval for the commercial operation of its autonomous car service in Beijing on Thursday, as the company’s Apollo Go, known as Luobo Kuaipao in China, was authorized to provide paid service in the country’s first-ever demonstration zone for commercial autonomous driving.
The autonomous vehicle commercial permit granted by the head office of the Beijing High-Level Automated Driving Demonstration Area (BJHAD) today allows Baidu to charge fees for autonomous services offered to the public in a designated area. Baidu was among the first service providers to receive such authorization. The issuing of the permits signifies that the development of autonomous driving in China has completed the testing stage and has begun wider commercial exploration.
Covering an area of 60 square kilometers in the Beijing Economic and Technological Development Zone, the service provided by Baidu’s Apollo Go includes over 600 pick-up and drop-off points in both commercial and residential areas. Covering a total of 350 kilometers of roads, the service is available every day of the week from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. By using the Apollo Go app, qualified users can locate one of a total of 67 autonomous cars in the vicinity and hail a ride by themselves.
Baidu’s autonomous driving capabilities have continued to make rapid progress in recent months. In Q3 of 2021, Baidu’s Apollo Go provided 115,000 rides, making Baidu the world leader in terms of the number of autonomous car service rides provided. As of September 2021, Apollo L4 accumulated over 10 million test miles, an increase of 189% year-on-year. Baidu has set an ambitious goal to expand Apollo Go operations into 65 cities across China by 2025, and 100 cities by 2030.
As autonomous driving technology continues to mature, the industry is poised to consolidate in coming years. In September 2021, IHS Markit released its Outlook of China’s Autonomous Driving Market and MaaS Market, forecasting that the size of the autonomous car service market will exceed 1.3 trillion yuan ($203.5 billion), with the top-ranked service provider accounting for a 40% market share.