Driverless taxis boost popularity of autonomous vehicle application

​By Yan Bin
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, September 4, 2023
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A self-driving taxi by Baidu operates in the self-driving road test section at Shougang Park, Shijingshan district, Beijing, on Aug. 28, 2023. [Photo by Yan Bin/]

In March, China's tech giant Baidu, alongside self-driving startup, received approval to operate fully autonomous robotaxis. These services have attracted a substantial customer base ever since.

According to Apollo Go, during this year's May Day holiday, a total of 848 orders were made from May 2 to 5, and 1,500 passengers took self-driving rides at Shougang Park.

In recent years, Beijing has seen a significant uptick in the adoption and popularity of driverless taxis. Several companies, like Baidu Apollo Go and, along with other international contenders, have emerged and secured permits to run trials and pilot programs in specific zones.

Data indicates that more than 95% of feedback received from passengers during tests in the high-level autonomous driving demonstration area in Daxing district, Beijing last year was positive.

However, despite the evident potential, there remain challenges and concerns with driverless taxis. Safety doubts top the list of issues raised by testers. Concerns regarding the legal and regulatory frameworks and potential job losses also surfaced in a survey carried out by Beijing Jiaotong University this year.

"Autonomous vehicles without a driver behind the wheel on some designated streets is a big leap forward in the development and deployment of self-driving," said Jiang Rui, a professor at the School of Systems Science, Beijing Jiaotong University. He believes that driverless taxi services will foster a more favorable view and acceptance of autonomous vehicles among the public.

The soaring demand for efficient transportation in megacities like Beijing has significantly propelled the popularity of driverless taxis. Jiang noted that these autonomous vehicles could decrease errors stemming from human operation, offer enhanced mobility — especially for individuals with disabilities or those unable to drive — and even reduce greenhouse gas emissions through optimized energy consumption.

Yang Xinying, a 42-year-old Beijing local, recently took a driverless taxi ride at Shougang Park with her 9-year-old daughter. "My daughter was keen on trying out this novel mode of transport. It's pretty straightforward — all we had to do was download a cab-hailing app. We did have reservations about using an autonomous taxi without a safety supervisor present, but our journey from Shougang Park to the bus station went off without a hitch," Yang said. She hinted at potentially using the service more frequently during their park visits.

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