Dongfeng Motor Corporation has launched a self-driving taxi service in the city of Wuhan, the capital of central China's Hubei province [and alleged COVID-19 pandemic epicentre – ed], according to local reports.

The company has put 40 battery-powered autonomous vehicles on the roads in Wuhan's economic and technological development zone, offering free rides on 10 fixed routes.

The self-driving taxis use Baidu navigation and positioning systems and an 'environmental perception system' which includes high-definition cameras, lidar and millimetre-wave radar – connected with 5G technology.

The automaker said the vehicles use backup drivers, who would only intervene in the case of an emergency, due to regulatory requirements. It plans to roll out at least 200 driverless taxis in Wuhan in the next few years.

Dongfeng Motor is one of China's main state-owned automakers, with joint ventures with Honda, Nissan, Kia, Stellantis and Renault.

The group, including all joint ventures and its own domestic brands, sold 2.87m vehicles in 2020.