Outside of China, self-driving is slower than expected
The speed is reduced by regulation, legal questions
Baidu, Pony.ai tests without security drivers in Beijing area
Dec 30 (Reuters) – Baidu Inc and Toyota Motor Corp backed First Pony. ai said on Friday they were granted the first licenses to test autonomous vehicles without security drivers as backup in Beijing.
Baidu and Pony.ai say they will begin testing 10 self-driving cars each at a technology center developed by the Beijing government as a step toward robotic services in the Chinese capital.
Beijing-headquartered Baidu, which makes a lot of money from its online search engine, has focused on self-driving technology over the past five years as it looks to diversify.
It started charging for its Apollo Go robotics service last year. It predicted that a ride in a robot would eventually cost about half the price of a commercial vehicle with a driver. The company said it will add another 200 robots to its network across China next year.
Apollo Go, which operates in Wuhan and Chongqing without a safety driver, brought in 1.4 million driverless pedestrians by the end of the third quarter, Baidu said.
Rival Pony.ai, which operates in China and the United States, has been testing autonomous drive systems in Guangzhou, where it operates a taxi service. It also tests self-driving cars in California and Arizona, where it uses safety drivers in cars as a precaution.
While Chinese companies are pushing for self-driving cars, automakers outside of China have pulled back from the rollout that was predicted a few years ago and regulatory roadblocks have emerged.
Tesla’s “Full Self Driving” plan requires a human behind the wheel ready to take control, three years after CEO Elon Musk predicted the company was on track to deliver a fleet of one million robots.
Tesla has been under criminal investigation in the United States over allegations that the company’s electric cars can drive themselves.
Cruise, the robotics division of General Motors Co, said it plans to add thousands of autonomous vehicles next year and expand its operations across San Francisco and other American cities.
US auto safety officials said earlier this month they had opened a safety investigation into the driving system used by Cruise after incidents in which the cars braked improperly or became unable to move.
In October, Ford Motor Co and Volkswagen AG shut down their joint self-driving startup, Argo AI, after concluding that mass deployment of the autonomous driving system would take more time and money than the companies predicted when they joined forces in 2019.
In March, Pony.ai agreed to fix a version of its autonomous driving software in the United States after an informal investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration concluded that a bug caused a test car to crash into a traffic median in California. (Reporting by Kevin Krolicki; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Barbara Lewis)