The Chinese internet search giant Baidu launched a self-driving car earlier this year. In November, the company was given the green light to charge passengers using their autonomous taxis in Beijing.

Baidu created a platform called Apollo to produce cars that do not require a human driver. The Apollo taxis are considered Level 4 in the artificial intelligence scale for self-driving cars. 

What is a Level 4?

The trend of artificial intelligence is growing, from manufacturing robots to smart assistants. Self-driving cars are another category that is fast and upcoming. 

However, the AI efficiency ranges for each type of software. The levels help consumers understand the AI’s capabilities. 

The levels for self-driving cars rank from 0 to 5, with Level 5 being the most automated. Level 4 cars differ from Levels 0-3 because the presence of an active human driver is no longer required. 

The Apollo is not yet considered Level 5 because there are safety drivers behind the wheel in case of an emergency. 

       Diagram of Apollo’s Sensors

What can Apollo do?

Well, that’s a packed question. The robotaxi has multiple sensors like cameras, GPS and radars that allow it to navigate on both local roads and highways. 

Apollo’s website showcases how the self-driving car can drive through unprotected left turns, smart lane changes, complex intersections, site automatic parking and narrow road passages. It can also filtrate smoke and rain. 

In short, the car can detect pedestrians on the road and stop. Likewise, the smart car can automatically switch lanes if a car in front of it is going too slow. 

What is the current situation?

The Apollo robotaxis can only drive in certain areas at the moment. The autonomous taxis are mainly in Beijing. 

Baidu-Apollo publicly tested its cars for free in the beginning stages. In November, Baidu-Apollo taxis began to collect fees from customers. The vehicles have been tested by over 89,000 passengers in the limited areas. 

Will robotaxis be the future of driving?

In the future, Baidu plans to implement robotaxis in 100 cities across China by 2030

With the Beijing Olympics approaching, there may be additional short stops to accommodate for the large traffic in the area.

It’s a little scary to think about how individuals who know how to drive will not be in control of the car. Passengers will be seeing a wheel moving on its own without a human presence. 

What are your thoughts on riding in taxis that can drive themselves?



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Julia Kim