China’s self-driving technologies are one step closer to the commercialization stage.
The country’s search engine giant Baidu was granted 40 testing licenses today by the local government of Beijing, the capital city of China, to launch passenger rides with its autonomous driving vehicles, according to the company’s announcement.
The Beijing-based company has already started to transport passengers with its autonomous driving vehicles on testing roads after obtaining the licenses, according to Beijing Municipal Commission of Transport. It is among the first batch of companies to launch autonomous driving tests with real passengers in Beijing.
This is not Baidu’s first time to offer test rides with passengers for its driverless cars. It has started in September to use its robotaxi fleet composed of 45 vehicles to transport real passengers in Changsha, capital of Central China’s Hunan province. As an early player entering into the autonomous driving sector, Baidu has so far received 120 licenses for autonomous driving tests with passengers and conducted road tests of more than 3 billion kilometers in 23 Chinese cities.
Along with issuing testing licenses, Beijing local authorities have also opened a testing area of 322 kilometers in its suburban district Yizhuang. The city has designated 151 roads totaling over 503 kilometers for autonomous driving tests and granted testing licenses to 77 vehicles in 13 companies.
Beijing government has officially announced to allow trial passenger rides in driverless vehicles on December 13. While several Chinese cities, including Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Changsha, have issued similar policies, Beijing was the first city to regulate test hours and insurance coverage for license applicants.
To win a testing permit, applicants should ensure the participants’ safety and purchase insurance of no less than RMB 1 million for each passenger. Also, applicants are only allowed to launch tests from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m, while trial rides were banned on the road under construction or under severe weather conditions.
Correction: An earlier version of the story incorrectly stated Baidu’s robotaxis got 40 licenses. It should be Baidu’s autonomous vehicles instead of robotaxis. Further changes have been made accordingly.