BEIJING — Baidu, a Chinese technology company, announced Monday that it is the first operator of robot taxis in China to obtain permits for selling rides with no human driver or staff member inside the vehicles.
In some instances, Baidu’s Apollo Go robotaxi business has received local government approvals that have allowed it to eliminate the need for human personnel.
The scale of the licenses was very small: 10 driverless taxis allotted between two neighborhoods in Wuhan and Chongqing, two major Chinese cities.
A Beijing suburban district approved Baidu and rival robotaxi operator Pony.ai’s plan to operate robotaxis without a human driver in April. Nonetheless, the Beijing taxi drivers still sit in the vehicle while the passengers ride alone.
Chinese municipal authorities have issued an increasing number of permits this year, which allow robotaxi companies to operate and charge fares in designated areas.
Alphabet’s Waymo and General Motors’ subsidiary Cruise are already running public robotaxis in the U.S. without any human drivers. The laws governing robotaxis and charging riders vary by city and state.
The company claims to have received more than one million orders for robotaxi rides. The company said it operated 196,000 rides in the first three months of the year. Baidu is scheduled to release its results for the second quarter on Aug. 30.