After it first started testing autonomous vehicles in Cangzhou, China last summer, Baidu has now obtained the necessary permits to experiment with how it will monetize those vehicles. The city, located about 149 miles south of Beijing, granted the company's Apollo Go robotaxi service permission to run commercialization tests with 35 cars and an additional 10 permits with which to trial fully driverless vehicles
Baidu says the permits will allow it to become the first company in China to start testing a paid robotaxi offering. So far, it has offered those rides to people for free, marking this an important milestone in its goal to commercialize the service. It's also the first company in Cangzhou to earn permission to test fully driverless vehicles on the city's roads. Previously, its testing in the city involved safety drivers in the cars.
To obtain the permits, Baidu had to complete 50,000 kilometers (31,068 miles) of testing on local roads. As of the start of March, the company said its Cangzhou fleet had accumulated approximately 326,030 miles. Outside of Cangzhou, Baidu is also testing driverless vehicles in Bejing and Changsha, the capital of China's Hunan province. It hopes to expand the service to 30 cities sometime in the next three years.