Baidu has taken a step closer to becoming China’s first company to earn money from its self-driving technology.
The Chinese search engine giant said on Monday that it has obtained a license to launch a commercial autonomous bus pilot program in the western Chinese city of Chongqing in a renewed effort to explore monetization mechanisms for such services.
The company’s autonomous buses will be deployed on a 10-kilometer route that includes several pick-up and drop-off sites in Chongqing’s Yongchuan district, with passengers being able to book their rides through the Apollo Go app and the Baidu Map app.
Baidu is not the only Chinese company to trial autonomous bus services in China. In January, Nissan-backed WeRide deployed a fleet of robobuses in a government-backed biotech industrial complex in Guangzhou, which the company said is powered by Level 4 autonomous driving technology.
The Chongqing push is Baidu’s second major attempt to accelerate the commercialization of its autonomous vehicle services. In March, the Beijing-based company received a license that allowed it to charge fees via discounts and coupons for its robotaxi service in the northern Chinese city of Cangzhou.
On Monday, Baidu also said that it had signed a deal with the Yongchuan district government to jointly launch a smart transportation pilot project which will be supported by its self-driving, big data and artificial intelligence technologies. The company did not provide further details on the project.
Contact reporter Ding Yi (firstname.lastname@example.org)