In a groundbreaking move, Chinese tech giant Baidu has taken a momentous stride by introducing its autonomous ride-hailing platform, Apollo Go, to Wuhan Tianhe International Airport.
As China’s pioneer of autonomous transportation, this move will entail Apollo Go offering driverless rides catering specifically to airport transfers, while also extending the service to connect the airport with urban areas. It is also the first instance of Chinese autonomous vehicles connecting urban roads and highways. This service is currently accessible to a select group of Apollo Go users and will become available to the public by September 2023.
The expansion of Apollo Go’s operations to serve Wuhan Tianhe International Airport marks a significant leap in establishing driverless airport transportation in China. In 2021, Baidu had ostensibly developed an autonomous vehicle capable of Level 5 autonomy, requiring no human intervention for its operation. This latest move will provide Baidu’s fleet with heightened exposure to the complexities of real-life driverless operations, which could fast-track its progress toward fulfilling its mission to provide autonomous ride-hailing services for public use.
Wuhan Tianhe International Airport, known for its substantial passenger traffic, will provide a robust foundation for the growth of Apollo Go. Situated 25 kilometers from central Wuhan, the airport is one of China’s eight key regional hub airports, garnering the highest passenger traffic in the central China region to date this year. The airport has served around 125,000 international and regional passengers this year and has increased its daily flight limit from 700 to approximately 1,000 flights, solidifying its position as a leader in flight scheduling not only in central China, but across the nation.
Following Baidu CEO Robin Li’s announcement in 2021 that Apollo Go has established itself as the leading provider of autonomous ride services in the world, the latest move represents just one of multiple ongoing efforts by Baidu to expand the footprint of Apollo Go. The company also plans to extend Apollo Go’s services to the districts of Jingkai, Hanyang, East and West Lake, Qiaokou, as well as other core areas within the Jiangbei region in future phases.
Since being awarded China’s inaugural license to provide fully autonomous taxi services in the country, Apollo Go has boasted an impressive track record, accumulating over 3.3 million cumulative orders as of June 30, 2023. Notably, the second quarter of this year alone saw Apollo Go complete 714,000 rides, representing a remarkable 149% year-on-year increase.
Thus far, Baidu has deployed its autonomous robotaxi fleet in five cities, including Beijing, Shenzhen, and Wuhan. This milestone underscores the company’s proficiency and commitment to testing, scaling up, commercializing, and operating driverless vehicles across multiple cities in China.
Beyond robotaxis, Baidu’s ambition is to integrate its autonomous driving technology with one million vehicles over the next five years. With Apollo Go gearing up for widespread adoption, its potential to reshape the paradigm of transportation holds significant promise.