Baidu secures permits to offer driverless ride-hailing services

Baidu has received the first permits in China to provide driverless ride-hailing services to the public on open roads in Beijing.

Marking a significant milestone for the autonomous ride-hailing industry in China, the approval indicates a regulatory openness to taking a further step toward a fully driverless mobility future.

With these permits, 10 driverless autonomous vehicles will offer rides to passengers in a designated area of 60 square kilometres in Beijing. These licensed cars will join an existing fleet provided by Apollo Go, Baidu’s autonomous ride-hailing service, in the capital of China.

Commuters can now hail a driverless ride using the Apollo Go mobile app from 10am to 4pm daily.

Currently, Baidu has the largest autonomous driving fleet in China. It plans to add 30 more such vehicles later, expanding its fleet to provide more convenient driverless services to the public.

The new permit represents Beijing’s collaborative and safety-first approach to autonomous vehicle regulation, progressing from the manned autonomous driving stage to the driverless stage. It also represents a benchmark regulation for the global autonomous vehicle industry, given the complexity and high density of urban traffic in Beijing.

In September 2020, Baidu became the first company in Beijing to offer autonomous ride-hailing services. Starting November 2021, it has been charging fees for the Apollo Go autonomous services offered to the public under granted commercial permits, though safety operators are required in the driver’s seat.

Apollo Go has expanded to nine cities since its launch in 2020 These include first-tier cities Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou, and five other cities — Chongqing, Changsha, Cangzhou, Yangquan, and Wuzhen.