Chinese self-drive buses enter ‘mass production’

Posted: July 4, 2018 by oldbrew in innovation, News, Travel

Baidu’s self-driving mini bus on show in Shanghai.

The march of the robots gets wheels.

One of China’s biggest technology companies has declared it has begun mass production of a self-driving bus, reports BBC News.

Baidu made the announcement after building its 100th Apolong vehicle at its factory in the country’s south-eastern Fujian province.

It said the vehicles would initially be put to commercial use within Chinese cities but added it was also targeting foreign markets.

The company is one of several competing to sell “level-4 autonomy” buses.

The classification – set by the transport engineering body SAE International – refers to highly automated driving systems that can cope with most driving conditions, even if a human fails to respond appropriately to a request to intervene.

It is one step below the maximum level-5 tier, which extends to all driving scenarios, including dirt roads and unusual weather conditions.

Baidu’s chief executive, Robin Li, detailed its plans at the company’s annual artificial intelligence developer conference in Beijing.

He said: “2018 marks the first year of commercialisation for autonomous driving.

“In the past, China exported cheap commodities to the world. In the future, China will export AI technology to the world.”

Softbank deal

The Apolong bus can seat up to 14 people, and has been developed with a local vehicle manufacturer.

It has no driver’s seat, steering wheel or pedals. It runs on electric power and can travel up to 100km (62 miles) after a two-hour charge, at up to 70km/h.

Baidu envisages it being used for “last-mile” drop-offs within enclosed areas, such as airports and tourist sites.

The company said partners would soon put it to use in Beijing, Shenzhen, Wuhan and other Chinese cities.

Continued here.

  1. Curious George says:

    No steering wheel, no pedals. It will work beautifully until the first problem develops. I assume that there is no way to open doors or windows manually.

  2. oldbrew says:

    George: there are 5 levels so it’s hard to say 😎

    The company is one of several competing to sell “level-4 autonomy” buses.

  3. p.g.sharrow says:

    I will believe it when I see it operate in real world conditions. The Chinese always cheat, always. It is their nature to cheat. Winning, by any means necessary, is everything. To Fail is to lose Face…pg

  4. Phoenix44 says:

    Fantastic. Should reduce bus costs significantly, not least by removing the need for all those regulations relating to human drivers.

    I don’t know why people on here are so negative about self-drive vehicles? What’s magically safe about human drivers? They can’t look 360 degrees around at any time, let all the time, just to show one example of how self-drive is safer.

  5. oldbrew says:

    Phoenix – maybe it’s the thought that they could drive through a big puddle and corrupt some of their sensors 😐

  6. Russ Wood says:

    As a retired software engineer, I’m very aware of the number of (unexpected) ways that really complicated ‘smart’ things can go wrong (click) wrong (click) wrong…

  7. ivan says:

    I think we can assume that these buses will be running in dedicated bus lanes not on the open road, in which case they become very practical for moving a lot of people around a city.

  8. Gary says:

    Open the pod bay door, HAL.

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