Baidu unveiled on July 21, 2022, the sixth generation of its self-driving electric car designed for road trips, at a cost nearly 50% less than a model announced last year.
BEIJING (Reuters) – Chinese tech giant Baidu said on Thursday it had slashed the price of its robotaxi vehicles by nearly half, cutting costs for a fledgling business.
The new vehicle, the Apollo RT6, is an electric car that costs 250,000 yuan (about $37,313) to produce – not relying on a third-party manufacturer, Baidu said. That price is 48 percent lower than the 480,000 yuan manufacturing cost announced last year for the Apollo Moon, made in partnership with state-owned BAIC group’s Arcfox electric car brand.
The Apollo RT6 is expected to start operating on Chinese roads in the second half of next year as part of Baidu’s autonomous robotaxi business.
The company’s robotaxi business, called Apollo Go, received approval from the city of Beijing in November to start charging for rides in a suburban neighborhood. However, a human staff member must always sit in the car.
In April, city officials eased restrictions on whether the staff member had to sit in the driver’s seat, paving the way for the cost of a taxi driver to be eliminated entirely. It is still unclear when the Chinese government will allow robotaxis to charge for rides without any human staff in the vehicles.
Baidu said the company aims to produce 100,000 Apollo RT6 vehicles over an indefinite period of time.
“This massive cost reduction will allow us to deploy tens of thousands of [autonomous driving vehicles] across China,” Robin Li, co-founder and CEO of Baidu, said in a statement. “We are heading towards a future where taking a robotaxi will cost half the price of taking a taxi today.”
Apollo Go operates in 10 cities in China, with plans to reach 65 cities by 2025 and 100 cities by 2030, the company said.
In addition to Baidu, start-ups such as Pony.ai and WeRide are testing robotaxi businesses in China.
To expand in China, companies need to test robotaxis and obtain licenses in every city they want to operate in, Elinor Leung, general manager of Asia telecom and internet research at CLSA, told CNBC earlier this year. week.
Until cities recognize each other, robotaxi companies will have to raise more money to test more cars in different cities, she said.