Chinese internet giant Baidu and autonomous vehicle company Pony.ai have received permits to provide driverless ride-hailing services to the public on open roads in Beijing, according to both companies.
To date, numerous cities in China have allowed autonomous vehicle companies to test self-driving vehicles without a human safety operator in the driver’s seat, but this is the first time companies are allowed to run a fully driverless service. That said, the permit does require the companies to have a safety operator present in the front passenger seat, so the regulation is not quite as mature as, say, California’s driverless permits which require no human in the vehicle aside from the passenger.
Neither Pony nor Baidu will be charging a fee for driverless rides yet, although both companies are currently running commercial services with drivered robotaxis in Yizhuang, Beijing, otherwise referred to as Beijing High-level Automated Driving Demonstration Area (BJHAD), according to a Baidu spokesperson. This 60-square-kilometer stretch of Beijing, home to about 300,000 residents, is also where both Baidu’s and Pony’s driverless service will run.