Baidu will become the first company in China to charge the passengers for autonomous driving taxi services, as the leading AI company has received such qualifications from the authorities in Cangzhou, Hebei province.
A fleet of 35 vehicles is now entitled to "roll out demonstrations of smart transportation services and explore various mechanisms for charging customers," said Baidu in a statement on Tuesday.
Cangzhou is the first city in China to announce policies that allow autonomous driving companies to charge passengers, which Baidu said is "a landmark" in the technology's development in the country.
Baidu started its robotaxi service called Apollo Go in downtown areas of Cangzhou in August 2020, allowing people to hail a free robotaxi ride through their smartphone.
Besides Cangzhou, its robotaxi service is available in Beijing and Changsha in Hunan province. The company said it plans to expand to 30 cities over the next three years.
Baidu also won permissions from Cangzhou to test 10 driverless vehicles. To obtain the Cangzhou qualifications, companies are required to complete 50,000 kilometers of local testing on open roads, accompanied by safety drivers, without any accident.
It received such permissions from Changsha and Beijing in September and December 2020, respectively. It is also allowed to test driverless testing in California, the United States.
Baidu has been investing in autonomous driving since 2013. Its Apollo is the world's leading open platform for autonomous driving, with more than 210 partners, 55,000 global developers and 700,000 lines of open-source code.
To date, Baidu's Apollo fleet has grown to 500 vehicles and conducted open-road tests in nearly 30 cities around the world, adding up to more than 7 million km of mileage.
In China, Apollo has obtained 214 autonomous driving licenses, including 161 for carrying passengers.