A car-sharing service using self-driving vehicles hit the roads in south-west China on Thursday.
Six autopilot cars were launched in a one-month trial of the car-sharing programme in Chongqing city, reportedly making it the country’s first driverless car sharing scheme.
The electric cars are provided by Pandauto, a car-hailing platform for new-energy vehicles, while the system is developed by online search engine Baidu’s autonomous driving platform, Apollo.
Pand-auto’s electric cars controlled by Baidu’s Apollo autonomous driving system are on display at Chongqing Internet Industrial Park on Thursday in south-west China
Six autopilot cars were launched in a one-month trial of the car-sharing programme in Chongqing city, reportedly making it the country’s first driverless car sharing scheme
‘Once requested by the passenger on an app, the robotic car would arrive at a designated pick-up location,’ Baidu said in a Weibo post. ‘The future is near!’
The companies aim to deploy a 100-strong electric vehicle fleet by the end of this year.
Video footage of the self-driving car in action shows passengers in the moving vehicle – with an empty driver’s seat.
The cars are capable of autonomous driving in an urban environment and can perform various operations including changing lanes and stopping at red traffic lights, according to China News.
It can also avoid obstacles and pedestrians without any human intervention.
The car is also equipped with self-parking, self-exit, cruise control and positioning features.
Users could control the vehicle’s movements via the app, locate its location and track movements using a mobile application.
After arriving at the destinations, the passenger can send the car back by commanding it on the app.
These features can reportedly solve the ‘last mile problem’ in transport planning, which refers to the inefficiencies and difficulties in getting commuters to their final destinations.
The driverless cars are capable of autonomous driving in an urban environment and can perform various operations including changing lanes and stopping at red traffic lights
The companies aim to deploy a 100-strong electric vehicle fleet by the end of this year
The first autonomous car debuted in Baidu’s development and research centre in Silicon Valley in January.
Baidu opened its first development and research centre in Sunnyvale, California in late 2017, its third such facility in the United States and its second office in Silicon Valley.
The trial operation is currently open to people with advanced reservations. Users who have received the invitation code can connect their phones to one of the shared cars.
‘Passengers can now summon a ride with a click – and the car will find you on its own,’ Pandauto said in a Weibo post.
Prior to the launch of the trial, checks were conducted to ensure passenger safety. A safety officer will also monitor the vehicle in real-time.
Baidu has been increasing its investments in developing autonomous vehicles, setting China on the path to redefine the future of transportation.
In April, Baidu’s self-driving bus Apolong was open to the public for trial rides during the Digital China Summit.
The driverless bus was developed by Chinese commercial vehicle maker King Long and carries Apollo’s autonomous driving operating system.
The Chinese government has included autonomous cars as one of the key sectors in its ‘Made in China 2025’ initiative, meant to transform China into a world-beating manufacturer of high-end, innovative products, according to Bloomberg.
Official policies encourage collaboration between Chinese technology companies involved in various aspects of transportation, from the cars themselves to satellite navigation.
WHAT ARE THE SIX LEVELS OF SELF-DRIVING AUTOMATION?
Level Zero – The full-time performance by the human driver of all aspects of the dynamic driving task, even when enhanced by warning or intervention systems.
Level One – A small amount of control is accomplished by the system such as adaptive braking if a car gets too close.
Level Two – The system can control the speed and direction of the car allowing the driver to take their hands off temporarily, but they have to monitor the road at all times and be ready to take over.
Level Three – The driver does not have to monitor the system at all times in some specific cases like on high ways but must be ready to resume control if the system requests.
Level Four – The system can cope will all situations automatically within defined use but it may not be able to cope will all weather or road conditions. System will rely on high definition mapping.
Level Five – Full automation. System can cope with all weather, traffic and lighting conditions. It can go anywhere, at any time in any conditions.
Tesla’s Model 3 Sedan – one of the world’s most advanced road-legal cars with autonomous elements – currently operates at Level Two autonomy. It is equipped for Level Three autonomy, which may be introduced in a future software update