Baidu claims to be a competitor to traditional robotaccess in parts of China

Baidu won approval to collect fares for robot rides in Beijing’s Yiguang district in November 2021.

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Beijing – Chinese technology company Baidu She said her big-city robotics business is getting closer to gaining the same traction with locals as traditional ride-hailing services.

During the third quarter, each of Baidu’s self-driving taxis completed more than 15 trips per day in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, CEO Robin Li said Tuesday, according to FactSet’s earnings call transcript.

“As far as we know, this number is very close to the average daily trips for traditional car booking services,” he told me. It did not say how many cars are in each domestic fleet.

For comparison, New York City averaged about 12 trips per active vehicle on ride-hailing apps per day in September, according to the most recent available municipal data.

In Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, Baidu’s automated robot – Apollo Go – can only operate in certain suburban areas.

The company did not say whether it can charge a fee to ride in robotic taxis in Guangzhou or Shanghai.

About 12 months ago, Baidu got approval from the city of Beijing to start charging for robot rides in Yizhuang District, about a half-hour drive from the center of the capital.

These trips still require a human employee to be in the vehicle.

However, Baidu said this week that it had received approval from Beijing local authorities to test 10 automated vehicles without any human employees in the front row.

Pony.ai, a startup also in the robotics business, said it had similar approval.

The two companies’ automated taxis in Beijing’s Yizhuang District are still heavily subsidized. A CNBC scan of both the Apollo Go and Pony.ai apps on Wednesday found more than 80% off discounts applied.

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Baidu has robot transportation operations in several cities in China, and can charge fare in at least seven, according to the company.

The company said on Tuesday that total robo-taxi trips in the third quarter rose more than 300% from a year ago, to more than 474,000 trips.

When asked during the earnings call when Apollo Go will break even, the company said it believes robotaxi will eventually be profitable and cheaper than existing ride-hailing services, and that the impact on Baidu’s P&L and overall cash flow is “controllable.” “

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