A few months after Baidu's robotaxi service arrived in Beijing, the company has received the first permits to run driverless vehicle tests in the city. China's capital granted Baidu Apollo permission to deploy five such vehicles on public roads.
The company plans to remove safety drivers from test vehicles after gradually reducing human intervention. However, a remote safety operator will still be able to take control in an emergency via Baidu’s 5G Remote Driving Service.
Beijing has strict requirements for driverless road tests. Vehicles must have T3 or higher testing ability, safely complete more than 30,000 kilometers (18,641 miles) of driving on open roads and pass an evaluation on a closed course. Baidu has achieved all of those conditions. The company says that the driverless permits are a key milestone towards its plan to build a commercial autonomous driving business.
It's not the first company to take to China's roads without a safety driver in place, however. Last week, AutoX (which has backing from Alibaba) started testing a fleet of 25 driverless robotaxis in Shenzhen. AutoX is also running the trial without remote operators.