|Recent updates are reminder of China’s big role in AV world|
Sometimes it's easy to be lulled into the belief that San Francisco ranks as the first major robotaxi battleground, with Waymo and Cruise providing service there and Zoox ostensibly not far behind.
But it's a provincial view of the industry. Don't discount developments on the streets of Beijing, where Baidu and Pony.ai both received permits from regulators to expand the scope of their service in the city.
Starting Thursday, Baidu was authorized to operate driverless service open to the public in the city during certain daytime hours. The company says 10 AVs will begin offering rides within a designated 60-square-kilometer section of the city. They join a fleet already operating as part of Apollo Go, Baidu's autonomous ride-hailing service.
Meanwhile, Toyota-backed Pony.ai, which has been testing in Beijing since October, received a permit for public robotaxi operations in the Yizhuang section of the city. The company says, for now, it will keep human safety supervisors in the front passenger seat of its vehicles.
Their competition is symbolic of the autonomous-vehicle developments taking place across China. DeepRoute.ai said this week the company's 30-vehicle fleet of SUVs will deploy in Shenzen in "the coming months."
Not to be outdone, robotaxi company WeRide launched its Robosweeper this week, a self-driving street-sweeping product developed as "we observed a surge of needs on environmental services" during the pandemic, says WeRide CEO Tony Han.
Fifty of the Robosweepers are ready for public-road testing, which is expected to commence next month in Shenzen. Like a Roomba for public roads, the Robosweepers are a clever use case for autonomous-driving systems, operating at slow speeds on repeatable routes.
Such a snapshot of one week's worth of developments is a good reminder there's a frenzy of activity not just in the Bay Area, but around the world.
— Pete Bigelow