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Trending in China: Self-Driving Taxi Service Launched in Beijing, But Can We Drop the Human Drivers?

Carol Yuan / Oct 12, 2020 06:55 PM / Trending Stories

What’s trending?

A self-driving taxi service operated by search engine Baidu’s autonomous driving service Apollo Go has opened to the public in Beijing, where people can simply show up to ride an experimental taxi from ranks in Haidian, Shunyi and Yizhuang without making a reservation.

What’s the story?

The self-driving Apollo Go service has undergone more than 60 safety tests before being first let loose on China’s roads in September.

From Oct. 11, Beijing commuters may access the service on Baidu map’s mobile app and choose a pick-up and drop-off site, or request a ride through the Apollo Go app.

At present, districts, operating hours, and service groups are restricted and passengers must be adults between 18 to 60 years of age. The cars will be driven under human supervision for safety reasons.

What are people saying online?

Sina Vehicle surveyed Weibo users about their willingness to try the new taxi service. Although over half of participants voted “yes,” many worried about safety. A netizen who tried the service shared his experience of the driverless car he was getting into being unable to recognize a parking guard’s instructions, leaving the car to be driven away by its supervisor. “We are still far from fully automatic driving cars. In some cases, the human factor is very important, and it is difficult for AI to handle these complex situations,” the user opined. “I asked the safety supervisor about insurance, but he did not answer me.”

Another test passenger complained that the taxi ride was very slow, saying “it feels like only 30 kph, and the safety supervisor assisted driving when turning.”

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