China's leading AI company, Baidu, has been granted the first few permits to offer driverless taxi services within the country, but how does that impact Grab?
Available to the public and to operate soon on the public roads of Chongqing and Wuhan, the Chinese authorities are putting a lot of trust in Baidu's capabilities of expanding its autonomous vehicle offerings and services.
Baidu has said that the fully driverless 'robotaxi' services will be made available within designated areas of Wuhan and Chongqing from 9 am to 5 pm and 9.30 am to 4.30 pm respectively.
For the initial setup, the services will only cover 13 square km in the Wuhan Economic & Technological Development Zone, and 30 square km within Chongqing's Yongchuan District. The permits were given to Baidu based on a number of safety testing and licensing steps to ensure that they can operate safely.
These include Baidu's autonomous driving system, monitoring redundancy, remote driving capability, and safety operation system which are claimed to have undergone a total test mileage of over 32 million km.
Looking far into the future, it's a possibility that ride-hailing service providers like Grab might get onto the autonomous vehicle bandwagon. Why? Grab and many other companies are part of Baidu's open platform program focusing on the development and adoption of autonomous driving.
Called the Apollo project, Baidu and many other companies like Grab, NVidia, Bosch, Microsoft Cloud, Velodyne, and more are joining forces to allow access to each other's tech in autonomous vehicles.
We're talking cloud services, open software stack, reference hardware, vehicle platforms, and many more. In other words, Apollo is like the Android OS of the autonomous vehicle, and it won't be long before we see its uprising in other countries.
Hopefully, in a good way. Not the 'Terminator' kind. Should we look for our very own 'John Connor' now, just in case?
Sep is a firm believer in the saying "Slow is smooth, smooth is fast" rather than "When in doubt, throttle it out". Drive safely, ride defensively, and most importantly, don't get hangry.