Baidu will start charging passengers for its fully driverless Apollo Go robotaxi journeys in Beijing, starting May 2, the first paid service of its kind in the country, according to a press release from the company on Thursday.
With no safety driver in the vehicle, the service will at all times allow human operators to remotely access the vehicles in case of emergencies, said Baidu. A company spokesperson told KrASIA that there will still be an employee in the front passenger seat to accompany the passengers, to ease anxieties during the first stages of operation.
The service will be launched first in Beijing’s Shougang Park—one of the venues for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics—transporting passengers to sports arenas, work areas, coffee shops, and hotels. During the upcoming Games, Apollo robotaxis will be available to provide shuttle services for athletes and staff.
A single ride within the park will cost RMB 30 (USD 4.60), the spokesperson said, adding that Baidu will offer a RMB 40 voucher for a free visit at the Sangaolu Museum inside the park.
“The move to charge passengers indicates that Baidu’s technologies are more mature,” said Zhang Xiang, an auto analyst with a government-affiliated think tank. Elsewhere, Baidu received approval from the Cangzhou government in Hebei Province to charge passengers for robotaxi rides in March.