back to article Robo-taxis hit the streets of Beijing – albeit a small fleet in a geo-fenced suburb

Chinese web giant Baidu has commenced operations of actual autonomous taxis on the streets of Beijing. The Apollo robo-taxi service only operates in Shougang Park, an area of the capital city that will host some events in the 2022 Winter Olympics. Just ten self-driving cars are rolling in this first commercial test of the tech …

  1. Rob F

    I'm excited about robo-taxis and automated vehicles in general but...

    I think somewhere like China had to do it first, for less than ethical reasons.

    First is the insurance company model, especially in the West, still hadn't got the situation sorted regarding culpability with incidents with automated cars. Second, China has the kind of control that could strong arm any bad PR off the face of the earth, until robo-taxis become the norm and the bugs are tweaked out of it.

    I might be just following the trope of China = bad, but like a few developments in the last decade or so, there's had to be an element of Wild West before things become a bit more established and adhere to protocols etc.

    I'm really hoping one day to convince my City of residence, Auckland, to invest heavily in automated vehicles, because we are about 20 years behind schedule infrastructure wise.

  2. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    ...and allow humans to take the wheel if they feel it necessary.

    So, the first test is: What happens if that human driver takes the vehicle outside the geo-fenced area?

    Does the vehicle simply refuse to turn outside the permitted area?

    If it can happen, does it have to be manually rescued (the area it is taken to may not be mapped, plus it shouldn't be allowed to be automatically driven in an unlicensed area).

    1. sgp Bronze badge

      Re: ...and allow humans to take the wheel if they feel it necessary.

      Presumably, it would be detrimental for the driver's social credit score.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They cannot be worse than human drivers if the YouTube Chinese car crash compilation videos are anything to go by.

  4. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Coat

    Wrong kind of snow

    2022 Winter Olympics

    Let's see

  5. codejunky Silver badge

    Cool

    Lets hope the west dont get left behind. While I can see the taxi being obviously desirable to people, I expect long distance transport and even package delivery can benefit from such automation. Hopefully this technology isnt too far away.

    1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      Re: Cool

      It's not often we agree. But it is amazing how many naysayers there are on here.

      Just look at the lists of sensors. It will have far more information about its environs than a meat sack with 1-2 forward facing cameras that has to remember to look in its mirrors and glance around.

      Okay, it lacks the power to analyse that data. And there'll be situations the first gen tech can't handle. It will screw up, fatally, in ways no human would.* But the technology is constantly improving. And once it's better than the people within limited conditions, then it's makes sense to deploy it.

      * On reflection, I'm probably discounting human creatively. No matter what stupid thing an autonomous vehicle does, it would be surprising if one inattentive human being somewhere, hadn't managed the same.

      1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

        Re: naysayers

        Hmm. If you look at the number of train accidents there have been, over the years, and bear in mind that trains run on well-defined tracks, and that there are only two ways that a train can travel on that track, and that the technology for railway safety is very mature now, etc. etc. I think that the optimism for safe automatic vehicles running along a road is severely misplaced.

        I used to work for both the Signals and the Mechanical Engineering (trains) departments of the Underground. They are rightly obsessed with safety and cost does not come into the equation when called upon to rectify anything that jeopardises safety. With road usage, we are talking about commercial enterprises who have such things as shareholders and, so long as the deaths are not Boris-scale*, affecting the share price, then there's nothing to worry about.

        The concept of "fail-safe" is ingrained into everyone involved in railway signalling: I'd argue that such is not the case with road technology.

        *Bodies piled high.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Cool

      Definitely not cool, as when they export this as "proven technology" to the west, you'll be finding out the hard way that its only as safe as the society is free.

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