After plowing money into autonomous vehicles and AI technology, Chinese search engine giant Baidu unveiled a new all-electric robotaxi that it aims to deploy at scale across China.
Baidu will add the Apollo RT6 EV—a cross between a minivan and SUV with a detachable steering wheel—to its Apollo Go ride-hailing service in 2023. The new EV robotaxi is Baidu’s sixth-generation autonomous vehicle and the first model built on the firm’s Xinghe self-driving platform. The automaker said that developing the EV architecture in-house helped trim production costs to $37,000 per unit.
Baidu said that recent advances in manufacturing had cut production costs, allowing it to eventually manufacture and operate tens of thousands of robotaxis at scale across Chinese mega-cities, including Beijing, Shenzhen, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, by 2023.
Baidu’s co-founder and CEO, Robin Li, said at the Baidu World 2022 technology conference that this massive cost reduction would enable the firm to deploy tens of thousands of AVs across China. He added that the firm was moving towards a future where taking a robotaxi would be half the cost of a taxi.
The Apollo RT6 seats between two-four passengers, and a detachable steering wheel adds space for seating, desktops, vending machines, or gaming consoles. The EVs sunroof stretches the car’s entire length to allow natural light into the cabin.
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