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Baidu starts offering nighttime driverless taxis in China • TechCrunch


Baidu, the Chinese internet giant best known for its search engines, is making some big strides in self-driving cars.

Starting this week, the public can drive their robot axle in Wuhan from 7am to 11pm without a safety driver behind the wheel. Previously, its driverless cars could only operate from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the city. The update program is expected to cover one million customers in certain areas of Wuhan, a city of more than 10 million people.

Like most autonomous vehicle startups, Baidu incorporates a combination of third-party cameras, radar, and hoods to help its vehicles see better in low visibility conditions, as opposed to solutions based on Tesla’s vision.

in August, Baidu began offering a completely driverless robotaxi ride-hailing service that charges passengers according to the taxi price. In the third quarter, Apollo Go, the company’s robotic ride-hailing app, completed more than 474,000 trips, an increase of 311% over the previous year. Cumulatively, Apollo Go has surpassed 1.4 million orders as of Q3.

That sounds like a significant potential revenue stream for Baidu, but one should trust such numbers and ask: how many of these rides are subsidized at a discount? How many of those are daily, repeatable routes instead of one-off novelty trips taken by early adopters? To boost performance, it is not uncommon to see Chinese robotaxi operators recruiting the public to ride in their vehicles.

It is also difficult to know which emerging Chinese robotaxi is leading the way at this stage. Their expansion is depends on their relationship with the local city where they operate and large cities often have the power to pass some local legislation.

As one of the few remaining consumer internet sectors that still has room for growth, self-driving cars are receiving warm support from local governments across the country. Case in point, Wuhan, an industrial hub in central China, was one of the first cities in the country to allow robotaxis to carry the public without a safety operator in the vehicle. And now the city seems comfortable with driverless cars roaming around even in the dark.

Reasonable skepticism aside, Baidu has really put a lot of effort into making the future of self-driving cars arrive sooner. One of the moats it is building is a visual language model to identify rare or unseen objects in long-term situations. AI powered by Wenxin, the same big model underpinning it text-to-image art background.

Baidu previously said: “This model will allow self-driving vehicles to quickly understand an unseen object, such as special vehicle identification (fire truck, ambulance), detect wrong plastic bags and other things”. explain. “In addition, Baidu’s autonomous driving perception model—a sub-model of the WenXin Grand Model—leverages more than 1 billion parameters, which can greatly improve the potential for autonomous driving perception generalization. .”

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