Chinese tech giant Baidu announced on December 26 a major expansion of its commercialized fully driverless robotaxi service in Wuhan, Hubei Province. The move triples the size of its operation areas, increases the number of robotaxis in service and expands the system’s operation times to include key evening hours.
Baidu‘s autonomous ride-hailing services platform Apollo Go now covers an area of 130 square kilometers in Wuhan and serves a population of over 1 million people. The expansion extends the coverage of Baidu‘s fully driverless service from Junshan New Town to between the third and fifth rings of the Wuhan Economic Development Zone. At the same time, the operating hours of the fully driverless robotaxi service in Junshan New Town have now been extended to 7:00-23:00 in order to better meet the public’s needs for evening travel.
Baidu now becomes the first and currently the only vendor in China to provide commercialized, fully driverless robotaxi services during evening hours. The company plans to put an additional 200 fully driverless robotaxis into operation across China in 2023, aiming to cover the largest fully driverless ride-hailing service area in the world by the end of the same year.
Apollo Go has witnessed stunning growth in Wuhan over the past several months, having begun operations in the city in May 2022. Three months later, Wuhan became the first city in China to host the commercial operation of fully driverless autonomous driving after Apollo Go upgraded its services in August. As one of the leading centers of automotive industry innovation in central China, Wuhan has over 400 kilometers of roads fully enabled by intelligent networks, putting it at the forefront of the technology in China.
The speed of Apollo Go’s expansion in Wuhan is backed by Baidu‘s years of experience in autonomous driving technology. Baidu has accumulated more than 40 million kilometers of L4 autonomous driving test mileage and 3,477 autonomous driving patent families, holding the world record for the number of autonomous driving patents for four consecutive years. In addition to Wuhan, Apollo Go currently provides commercialized autonomous ride-hailing services in cities including Beijing, Shenzhen and Chongqing. By the end of the third quarter of this year, the cumulative order volume of Apollo Go exceeded 1.4 million, ranking Baidu as the world’s largest robotaxi service provider.
“The generalization ability of Baidu‘s autonomous driving technology has progressed at a more advanced pace than expected. Now, the lead time to deploy autonomous driving technology in a new city is only 20 days,” said Wang Chong, Chief Brand Officer of Baidu Intelligent Driving Group.