Baidu, the Chinese tech giant and search engine company, recently debuted its latest all-electric self-driving Robotaxi, and it’s rather impressive. The new 6th generation Apollo RT6 EV is so advanced it ditched the steering wheel for a vending machine or coffee maker.
In the United States, brands like Waymo and Cruise are slowly progressing with Robotaxi’s, even though GM’s Cruise has had its share of troubles lately. Over in China, Baidu’s autonomous vehicles have approval to operate in more than ten cities, and the company hopes to deploy its new Apollo RT6 throughout the country in 2023.
The all-new Apollo RT6 EV is a mix between a minivan and a traditional SUV, and this initial release comes with a detachable steering wheel. That’s because, at first, the vehicles will still have a human driver as it continues to test and improve the level 4 self-driving technology.
However, in the future, Baidu already imagines a world where cars are fully autonomous. As a result, the Apollo RT6 can quickly transform into a vehicle purpose-built for robotaxi services.
Standard components like a steering wheel and pedals are gone. Instead, there’s a vending machine and drink dispenser for passengers and paying customers. Imagine being able to get a fresh cup of coffee made in your Robotaxi while you head to work or play some PS5. That’s the goal.
In a press release, Baidu said, “The steering wheel-free design unleashes more space to craft unique interiors, allowing for the installation of extra seating, vending machines, desktops, or gaming consoles.”
Baidu wants to add the Apollo RT6 EV to its Apollo Go ride-hailing service next year. This vehicle is the first model built on Baidu’s Xinghe self-driving platform and is a level 4 autonomous vehicle. For comparison, Tesla’s FSD is level 2, while Waymo and Cruise operate at level 4.
The automaker explains that nearly 38 sensors, over twelve cameras, and eight LiDAR systems, all help it navigate the busy streets in the region. Furthermore, Baidu wants to develop the entire EV in-house, keeping production costs under $37,000 per vehicle.
With such a low price tag, the company thinks the RT6 can “accelerate autonomous vehicle deployment at scale.” Baidu didn’t share information regarding driving range or other features, but it hopes the Apollo RT6 will be available in over 65 cities by 2025.
via Digital Trends