The Chinese firm Baidu has officially unveiled its first autonomous cab Apollo RT6, which takes the form of a 100% electric minivan. It is ahead of Elon Musk, who also wants to enter this niche, with an autonomous cab network already in operation.
Autonomous shuttles have been developing for many years, and manufacturers and tech specialists have been working on deploying driverless cabs, especially for large cities. As early as 2021, Waymo, a subsidiary of Alphabet, unveiled one of the world’s first self-driving cars, designed in partnership with the Chinese manufacturer Zeek. A few months later, last July, it was General Motors’ turn to deploy some thirty autonomous vehicles in the streets of Sans Francisco, which customers could use with the Cruise service.
ADVANCED AUTONOMOUS DRIVING
Today, it is the turn of Baidu, a Chinese company specializing in search engines and artificial intelligence founded in 2000, to enter this niche. The company has just unveiled a new autonomous cab, Apollo RT6, which will succeed the Apollo Moon, which was presented in June 2021.
Less expensive, with a price tag of around $36,000 compared to the Moon’s $71,000, this new vehicle is equipped with Level 4 autonomous driving technology. As a reminder, only level 3 autonomous driving (without the need to keep your hands on the wheel) is authorized in France, and this has been the case since September 1.
The vehicle is a large minivan equipped with a retractable steering wheel. To drive without the driver’s intervention, the vehicle is equipped with eight LIDAR sensors and a dozen cameras. It will therefore be possible to install additional seats instead, but also a game console, as explained by the Wall Street Journal.
According to Baidu, Apollo RT6 would be able to drive as well as a person with more than 20 years of experience, while it has accumulated about 32 million kilometers during its test phase. However, for the time being, it is still in the prototype stage and will be launched next year.
- READ MORE: “European Parliament: Gasoline and diesel cars will end by 2035“
AHEAD OF TESLA
Currently, Baidu’s Apollo Go robotaxi service is offered in ten major cities in China and has already totaled more than one million trips with its Apollo Moon. The firm now wants to accelerate its development by extending its service to other cities outside China. The goal is 65 by 2025 and a hundred by 2030. The company then hopes to deploy several thousand autonomous vehicles worldwide in its home country.
Thus, Baidu is far ahead of Tesla, while the Californian company has not yet unveiled its robotaxi, announced for 2024. Last April, Elon Musk took advantage of the Cyber Rodeo, a big event organized for the inauguration of the Texas Gigafactory, to give some details about his future autonomous cab.
This could be officially unveiled next year and should not be equipped with a steering wheel or pedals. According to the executive, the cost per kilometer would be lower than a bus ticket. But with Elon Musk, one should always be cautious about announced dates.