Chinese tech giant Baidu says that his autonomous taxi next-generation has the capabilities of a “qualified driver with 20 years of experience.”
The Beijing-based company, which operates an Uber-like ride-sharing service, filed the Apollo RT6 all-electric at a special event on Wednesday, July 20.
Baidu plans to deploy the Apollo RT6 in large numbers in 2023 as part of Apollo Go, the company’s autonomous transportation service that operates in 10 Chinese cities.
Images (below) of the new car reveal a futuristic-looking interior that ditches the steering wheel along with other components associated with traditional vehicles. However, Baidu said that during a test phase, the Apollo RT6 will operate with a steering wheel and a safety driver until regulators give the green light to remove both.
“The steering wheel-less design frees up more space to create unique interiors, allowing for the installation of extra seats, vending machines, desktop computers or game consoles,” said Baidu in a statement about its flashy new robotaxi.
The Apollo RT6 car is actually Baidu’s 6th generation autonomous vehicle, but previous designs are essentially conventional cars equipped with self-driving technology.
Baidu’s new self-driving car currently offers self-driving capabilities qualified at Level 4, which is highly advanced and one step below the maximum Level 5, which offers “full automation”. This is made possible by the vehicle’s dual computing units powered by advanced software and 38 sensors including 8 LiDAR and 12 cameras to ensure the vehicle misses nothing while driving.
“At a unit cost of $37,000, the arrival of Apollo RT6 will accelerate AV deployment at scale, bringing the world closer to a future of driverless shared mobility,” Baidu said.
As self-driving technology continues to advance, companies in the industry are increasingly looking for designs that free their self-driving cars from manual controls.