Baidu, which is basically Google’s version of Google, has unveiled a new autonomous vehicle (AV) that offers a steering wheel as an optional extra.
As Auto Futures reports (opens in a new window), this is Baidu’s latest iteration of AV, which it calls the Apollo RT6 (opens in a new window). According to Reuters (opens in a new window), the new vehicle is expected to cost around $37,000, and that’s a major cost reduction compared to the previous AV model Baidu, which cost $71,000.
Traveling in a car that doesn’t have a steering wheel can be frustrating for some passengers, but Baidu managed to achieve level 4 autonomous driving capabilities using 36 sensors, including 12 cameras and eight LIDARs. It is considered fully autonomous, but typically Level 4 vehicles allow a human to request control.
Baidu intends to introduce this AV as an affordable, autonomous taxi across China next year using its Apollo Go autonomous ride-hailing service. With the steering wheel removed, the extra space inside the vehicle will be used for vending machines, game consoles, desk areas or additional seating. I doubt that vending machines will work best for generating extra income during taxi rides, though.
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Speaking at the Baidu World Conference (opens in a new window), the company’s CEO Robin Li said, “This massive cost reduction will allow us to deploy thousands of AVs across China… are moving where a robotic taxi would be half the cost of taking a taxi today.”
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