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Chinese company gets approval to run Robotaxi without a human behind the wheel

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Major developed cities around the world are gradually moving towards smart transportation systems, using autonomous vehicles powered by artificial intelligence.

China is not left behind, as it has been a major testing ground for autonomous vehicles. The country has had several startups push boundaries and break records with autonomous vehicles and Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology.

China has experienced AI based vehicle companies testing their autonomous vehicles on major road, running their vehicles without safety drivers, and going miles with autonomous vehicles.

On the forefront startups into autonomous vehicles operation is Pony.ai. The startup has partnered with Chinese search engine giant, Baidu, to run a Robotaxi outfit. Baidu and Pony.ai announced that they have gotten the Asian country’s approval to operate ride-hailing services using self-driving vehicles.

The service, which was introduced in Beijing China, marks the leap into self-driving technology by the world’s largest car market. The service will allow people to hail cabs through the company’s app, although, it is only operable during daylight hours.

According to the announcement made by the companies, for now, the service would be restricted to a 23-mile radius, with an operator riding along in the passenger seat. The operator is there to take over from the vehicle in cases of emergency.

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Although, Baidu is known to run a search engine company in China, it is also known to have the largest fleet of autonomous vehicles in China. In the past, Baidu had gotten approval to run ride-hailing services using autonomous vehicles, although in this case, a human is expected to ride along in the driver’s seat.

Pony.ai was founded by former Baidu engineers in California. The startup is backed by Toyota, and valued at $8.5 billion at last valuation.

Pony.ai and Baidu plans to start their Robotaxi run with 10 vehicles, and later increase the fleet by 30.

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