Chinese internet services giant Baidu is partnering with BAIC Group’s EV brand ARCFOX to jointly release Apollo Moon, a new generation of robotaxis that are set to be mass-produced with a per unit manufacturing price of RMB 480,000.
The companies say the vehicle will be one third of the cost of average L4 autonomous vehicles and that Apollo Moon is a ‘monumental milestone in the large-scale commercialization of fully autonomous ride-hailing services in the smart transportation industry’.
Apollo Moon has a projected operating cycle of over five years and it is planned it will provide dependable long-term robotaxi ride-hailing services. It is claimed the reduced cost of production will facilitate a greater degree of scalability, driving the widespread popularization and increasing commercialization of fully autonomous ride-hailing services in China.
“As early as 2017, Baidu and BAIC Group entered into a strategic partnership. Both sides share the same goals and insist on independent R&D to promote the development of autonomous driving in China. The launch of Apollo Moon is an important breakthrough signifying the powerful linkage between China’s leading autonomous driving technology and the most advanced smart vehicle platform, marking a landmark step in the field of robotaxi ride-hailing services globally,” said Zhenyu Li, Senior Corporate Vice President of Baidu and General Manager of Intelligent Driving Group (IDG).
At the press conference, Baidu and ARCFOX – the high-end brand of EVs under BAIC Group – reached a new strategic cooperation agreement to roll out a fleet of 1,000 Apollo Moon robotaxis in three years. Recently, Baidu Apollo has begun to roll out Robotaxi ride-hailing services in Beijing (newly added Tongzhou area), Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chongqing and other cities.
“Through this project, ARCFOX and Baidu will work together to explore the forefront of cutting-edge autonomous driving technology. With ARCFOX’s advanced automotive platform, we are well equipped to bring Baidu’s newest generation of autonomous driving technology to life. At the same time, ARCFOX and Baidu are also developing the next generation autonomous driving products. As self-driving cars change the future world of transportation, our goal is to bring users a smarter and more convenient travel experience. ARCFOX actively pioneers the field of autonomous driving, working closely with leading partners in the industry to create new experiences through the exploration of advanced technology,” said Yu Liu, Chairman of the Board of BAIC BluePark New Energy Technology.
Baidu Apollo Moon utilizes the “ANP-Robotaxi” architecture, a navigation pilot product Baidu says can reduce the weight of autonomous vehicle kits while sharing intelligent driving vehicle data to create a closed-loop information ecosystem. By combining these capabilities along with a customized LiDAR and corresponding unmanned redundancy functions, fully driverless autonomy can be realized, it is claimed.
Apollo Moon will be geared with ‘omni-sensors and computing unit redundancy functions as well as a precise failure detector and degradable processing algorithms, while 5G remote driving service and V2X will also be supported’. Baidu maintains that compared with its predecessors, the overall capabilities of Apollo Moon will have improved tenfold with a 99.99% success rate of ride-hailing in complex urban cityscapes, allowing for a fully driverless vehicular experience that is equivalent to that of human drivers.
On the exterior body, an electronic display is attached to the sunroof to exhibit the status of a robotaxi and allows passengers to identify their ride from afar. In terms of passenger convenience, Apollo Moon contains new features including a seat belt reminder for rear passengers, AI voice assistant, mobile app climate control, intelligent car doors and more.
Baidu Apollo has been awarded with 2,900 patents for intelligent driving and 244 relevant road testing licenses, accumulating a total testing mileage of over 12 million kilometers that is steadily growing at a pace of 40,000 kilometers every day – equivalent to circling the globe once per day.