Chinese search engine giant Baidu Inc. has revealed an autonomous vehicle (AV) that features a detachable steering wheel. Within the next year, Baidu will introduce this vehicle as part of its robotaxi service. According to media reports, the new model will cost 250,000 yuan ($37,031.55) compared with 480,000 yuan for the previous generation.
As Baidu moves towards a future where taking a robotaxi will be half the price of taking a taxi today, this massive cost reduction will allow it to deploy tens of thousands of AVs across China. In addition to 8 lidars and 12 cameras, the next-generation car will possess autonomous Level 4 capabilities that do not require human intervention. Similar to radars, lidars detect objects using pulsed laser light rather than radio waves.
Meanwhile, in a conference with investors earlier this year, Tesla’s Elon Musk said that his company is aiming to start mass production of the robotaxi without a steering wheel and pedals in 2024, and predicted that it will be cheaper to ride the robotaxi than to take a bus.
Within the next few years, Alphabet Waymo plans to introduce its “fully autonomous vehicles” to the US as part of its recent unveiling of its robotaxi without a steering wheel. As these vehicles have yet to receive regulatory approval, it will be a while before automakers and tech companies can deploy them in real life.
As soon as Chinese authorities approve it, Baidu AV will hit the roads without a steering wheel. A Baidu AV can match the driving capabilities of a skilled human driver who has over 20 years of experience. In addition, the company announced that it has begun charging fares for its fifth-generation robotaxi rides in Beijing. Upon commercialization, Baidu intends to serve 65 cities by 2025 and 100 cities by 2030, expanding its robotaxi business beyond China.