Nov 19, 2021 04:55 PM

Baidu Hopes to Dispatch Its Robotaxis in 100 cities by 2030

One of Baidu’s Apollo Go robotaxis drives down a road in Beijing in September 2020. Photo: IC Photo
One of Baidu’s Apollo Go robotaxis drives down a road in Beijing in September 2020. Photo: IC Photo

(Nikkei Asia) — Chinese tech group Baidu Inc. looks to expand its driverless taxi service to 100 cities by the end of the decade, turning the fleet into the company’s second-biggest profit generator after online ad revenue.

CEO Robin Li announced the plan Wednesday during the company’s earnings announcement. The company in 2023 will start mass production of electric vehicles (EV) equipped with the group’s proprietary self-driving technology.

The robotaxi service currently operates in Beijing, Shanghai and three other cities under the Apollo Moon brand. The cabs provided 115,000 rides in the third quarter that ended September. Baidu expects the platform to be available in 65 cities in 2025.

Baidu is developing self-driving electrics through partnerships with state-owned automakers BAIC Motor Corp. Ltd. and Guangzhou Automobile Group Co. Ltd., as well as electric vehicle startup WM Motor Holdings Ltd.

New vehicles eventually will come from Jidu Auto, an EV manufacturing venture established by Baidu and private automaker Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd. in March. Baidu holds a 55% majority in the unit.

Jidu will showcase a concept car at the Beijing International Automotive Exhibition that opens in April. Mass production is due to begin in 2023.

Baidu, China’s leading search engine provider, also will apply self-driving technology to business-to-business logistics services. Such an operation will be led by an electric truck venture Baidu established with a Chinese logistics company.

Elsewhere, Baidu is offering municipalities solutions for easing traffic congestion, based on artificial intelligence. The company said it has signed contracts worth over 10 million yuan ($1.56 million) with 24 cities.

This story was first published in Nikkei Asia.

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