back to article Baidu crashes the cost of robo-taxis by 75 percent

Chinese tech giant Baidu has revealed a self-driving car it claims can be produced for ¥250,000 ($37,000) – a quarter of the cost to manufacture comparable vehicles. The Apollo RT6 is slated to roll on Chinese roads in 2023 and was designed from the ground up as an autonomous car, meaning its sensors are embedded around its …

  1. Cederic Silver badge

    oh, a duet

    I misread that initially as a duel.

    Maybe I read too much cyberpunk.

  2. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge
    Trollface

    Will we get the Johnnies from Total Recall soon?

    1. Inventor of the Marmite Laser

      I can remember it for you wholesale.

    2. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

      Sliding doors, designed as a Taxi, its a Johnny cab!

      1. Inventor of the Marmite Laser

        It's a cab innit

  3. vtcodger Silver badge

    Let the Chinese Test This One

    I have no idea whether Baidu can pull this off or not, but apparently they think they can. And it's certainly possible that after a few years and a bit of collateral damage, (i.e. a number of injuries/fatalities both in and near the vehicle) they can make it work acceptably. At any rate, it seems a lot more plausible than Elon Musk's unending promises of full autonomy OTA Thursday next using a probably entirely inadequate (but real cheap) sensor array and liberal amounts of fairy dust.

    There's also the fact that Chinese drivers in general are reputed to be less than great. An erratic robot vehicle may fit right in. I don't know if this is true, but it sounds plausible In Lanzhou a retired school teacher decided to teach bad drivers a lesson and threw bricks at cars that did not yield to pedestrians. Apparently a few other elderly men joined him, while onlookers rushed to get them more bricks and food (to keep up their throwing strength). The men damaged 30 cars before police stopped them. They have become internet heroes here. Source https://chinachange.org/2011/02/21/why-are-chinese-such-bad-drivers/

    Note that the steering wheel is "detachable", not "optional". One suspects the authorities will quickly label it to be "essential safety equipment" and require it to be in the car at some handy location. They'll presumably need it for police/bystanders get the vehicle out of the way if (when) it breaks down.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Let the Chinese Test This One

      I think Baidu is considered to have the best facial recognition systems in the world

      One key thing is that the Chinese authorities will be able to adjust traffic regulations, presumably prioritising robocars, quickly and easily. Meatware drivers around the world are bad in high traffic situations but we just refuse to accept this. They may also profit from the more predictable street layouts: Shanghai isn't Siena or Pamplona.

      1. cyberdemon Silver badge
        Big Brother

        Re: Let the Chinese Test This One

        Autonomous cars could be used everywhere already if there were no (unpredictable) humans on the roads.

        >I think Baidu is considered to have the best facial recognition systems in the world

        Indeed, but it will be trained mainly on the occupants of the driverless vehicle. No neer-do-wells allowed in the vehicle. Unpersons may enter the vehicle but the doors will be locked and the destination will be locked to 'Gulag', and collision-avoidance systems may be silently deactivated. Bad luck if you get in the car and only then realise that you are an unperson.

        It could be used to identify pedestrians, but I think even Baidu would struggle to identify someone in another car who is wearing a Covid Mask & Sunglasses. Then again it only needs to read the license plate if it were illegal to get in a car that isn't registered to you & doesn't have internal facial recognition.

        The biggest problem in the west, meanwhile, will be the insurance industry. Who pays for the insurance on a driverless car? How do we adjust the premiums? whose fault was it? What do we do about that little toddler who was misclassified as a piece of litter?

        Whereas in China, presumably there is no need for mandatory insurance - if two cars collide, the driver/occupant with the lowest social-standing with the police pays up or goes to jail. Much easier.

        And if it doesn't work, well, we can just ban the humans from driving in the big cities at all. If you're too poor to own an autonomous car, take a taxi, or a bus, or get on your bicycle. And "poor" in China means you don't have any favour with the authorities.

    2. jmch Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Let the Chinese Test This One

      "threw bricks at cars that did not yield to pedestrians. .... They have become internet heroes "

      I would certainly cheer on anyone throwing bricks at cars not yielding to pedestrians.

      Local main road that kids have to cross to get to school was turned from 50kmh to 30kmh limit. This means that pedestrians (in theory) can cross anywhere, not only on zebra crossings (and therefore existing zebra crossings were removed).

      But in practice a lot of cars just breeze through at 50+ even when they can see kids waiting to cross, possibly because their GPS tells them the limit is 50 (at least mine still does, even with an update from 2 weeks ago, more than a year since the speed limit change).

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Let the Chinese Test This One

        >I would certainly cheer on anyone throwing bricks at cars not yielding to pedestrians.

        So you're obviously not American !

        "bricks"? Why do you think there is a right to bear Javelins

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Let the Chinese Test This One

      > Note that the steering wheel is "detachable", not "optional".

      Still, we've gone from “where did I put my keys” to “now where did I put my steering wheel?”

  4. TeeCee Gold badge
    WTF?

    Emergency drill.

    In case of emergency or autonomous failure, follow these steps.

    1) Locate steering wheel.

    2) Remove coffee machine / additional passenger / dog bed / tuba.

    3) Attach steering wheel to column. Orientate correctly and ensure that latches engage.

    4) Assume control and bring vehicle to a safe halt.

    1. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Re: Emergency drill.

      Assuming the tuba has crumple zones, it might be worth leaving in situ.

      And it certainly beats a whistle for attracting attention.

    2. Jan K.

      Re: Emergency drill.

      You forgot...

      3a) win the argument with DuXiaoxiao that this is not a hostile takeover

    3. Russell Chapman Esq.

      Re: Emergency drill. Not a Tuba but a Trumpet

      In very slow moving traffic, on M6 if I remember correctly, German driver, tell by the plates, playing the trumpet while steering with his knees. My 1st thought was if car ahead suddenly stopped he would be rammed through the neck by his trumpet. At least he would go on a high note I guess.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Emergency drill. Not a Tuba but a Trumpet

        > My 1st thought was if car ahead suddenly stopped he would be rammed through the neck by his trumpet.

        Adaptive cruise control

        Hopefully he would also match the tempo of the playing to the speed of traffic

  5. Pete 2 Silver badge

    left holding the ...

    > it will offer the car with a detachable steering wheel.

    Hopefully it won't detach right at the moment when an unsuspecting occupant needs to seize control to avoid a collision

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: left holding the ...

      A good steering wheel that doesn't fly off when you're driving :D

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: left holding the ...

        You could design one that flew off immediately before an accident

        In fact it would be pretty trivial to design

  6. Steve Button Silver badge

    What time to be alive. ®

    Don't worry that might not last too long. If the AI is given the instruction to reduce emissions, it won't take it long to work out the best solution is "kill all humans"

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: What time to be alive. ®

      Unless the AI has been trained on real black cab drivers - then they wont want to kill 'all' humans

  7. The Kraken

    Human drivers aren’t so great…

    It only has to demonstrate that it is no less safe than human drivers. That I suggest, is quite likely.

    1. Persona Silver badge

      Re: Human drivers aren’t so great…

      Having had a human taxi driver fall asleep at the wheel whilst doing >50 mph in the outer lane of the M25, I agree. FYI - the only injury was a mild bump to his head ...... as it hit the steering wheel and woke him up.

      1. Gene Cash Silver badge

        Re: Human drivers aren’t so great…

        Eh, mine was reading a paperback as she "drove"

    2. Geoff Campbell
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Human drivers aren’t so great…

      Whilst you're quite right logically, in practice you're very wrong.

      Even if we create a self-driving car that results in the number of deaths on the road falling to 10% of the current number, the press and certain politicians will be all over them, demanding justice and action. And the lawyers will make out like bandits.

      GJC

  8. Zack Mollusc

    Laughable

    I see they plan to use AI to alter traffic light timing to reduce congestion.

    Hahahaha! Silly Chinese! The UK has the only valid plan for reducing congestion, namely an ever-increasing population, closing or narrowing of existing roads, convoluted one-way systems and reducing speed limits.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Laughable

      market forces = just increase congestion charges until there is no congestion

  9. Nifty Silver badge

    "Steering wheel not required, if desired – or you could add a coffee machine"

    British unions insist there will be a barrista in each cab.

  10. Michael Habel Silver badge
    Terminator

    Who is ultimately responsable for this thing killing someone, or a great deal many more, when the IoT AI decides to have a little lie down?

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