Baidu and Pony.ai have announced that they have secured permits to provide fully driverless ride-hailing services in Beijing, China. The move marks a significant step forward for the companies, which are now authorized to operate their services without a human driver or safety operator in the Chinese capital.
Baidu’s Apollo service will deploy 10 fully autonomous vehicles in a technology park developed by the government of Beijing. The Chinese ride-hailing giant has been focused on self-driving technologies for the past five years as it seeks to diversify its revenue beyond its internet search engine. In December, Baidu had been granted a license to test its service and it will now be able to operate driverless robotaxi services in three Chinese cities, including Wuhan and Chongqing.
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Meanwhile, Pony.ai, which is backed by Toyota Motor (7203.T), said in a separate statement that it has also received a permit from Beijing city. The company already operates a robotaxi service in the southern city of Gaungzhou.
The permits awarded to Baidu and Pony.ai indicate a growing trend toward autonomous vehicles and ride-hailing services in China. The country’s government has been actively promoting the development of self-driving technologies, with the aim of making China a world leader in the field. The issuance of these permits also demonstrates China’s willingness to embrace innovation and new technologies, even as concerns over safety and regulation remain.