Meet China's autonomous cabs that run without a driver

Meet China’s autonomous cabs that run without a driver

The future has arrived in China. In Beijing, autonomous cars are already capable of driving without human control, even dispensing with drivers for emergencies. The companies Baidu and, which have had fleets of autonomous cabs on the streets of the world’s most populous capital since 2021, are expected to excel in exploring this new market.

In Beijing, autonomous cabs
In Beijing, autonomous cabs are in circulation without the need of a driver for emergency cases. (Source: safecarnews/Reproduction)

How do autonomous cabs decide?

Light Detection and Ranging (Lidar) sensors, cameras, radar, global positioning system (GPS) and artificial intelligence (AI) make autonomous vehicles used for passenger transport in China capable of moving intelligently through urban and road sections.

Baidu’s autonomous cabs, for example, reproduce the capacity for human control: they change lanes, park, drive in chaotic traffic, and even deal with poor visibility conditions such as smoke and rain. In case of emergency or malfunction of the autonomous cabs, operators resume driving the vehicles remotely via 5G.

The cars in the autonomous cab fleet are medium-sized and can accommodate up to four people. Passengers can request the transportation service via an app.

How do autonomous cabs decide
Baidu wants to increase the number of vehicles for service. (Source: Baidu/Reproduction)

Limits: autonomous cabs have a timetable for operation

In Beijing, the intelligent cabs will be able to operate in a limited area of 60 square kilometers between 10 am and 4 pm. Baidu, a company that already has part of its autonomous car fleets on the streets, plans to triple the number of vehicles to meet the demand.

The group already has autonomous cars on an experimental basis in eight Chinese cities: Shanghai, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Chongqing, Changsha, Cangzhou, Yangquan, and Wuzhen. Baidu hopes to expand the service to other Chinese cities soon. In partnership with automaker Geely, the investment in smart cars is expected to be $7.7 billion over the next five years.

James Peng, CEO of, another company responsible for operating autonomous cab fleets in China, believes that this new scenario initiates an important milestone in the transition to testing vehicles without human control.

The technology that integrates autonomous vehicles is a milestone in the history of urban mobility, and to see this reality on the streets of the world’s major metropolises does not seem too far away.

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