Baidu Apollo has received China’s first batch of qualifications to test autonomous vehicles at night and in special weather conditions on public roads in Beijing.
A total of 53 such test qualification notices along with five general public road test licenses were granted to Baidu Apollo at the Beijing Intelligent Connected Vehicle Policy Pilot Zone launch event on April 13, 2021. The Pilot Zone encompasses 225 square kilometers, six highways, and urban expressways that cover a total length of 143 kilometers.
The ability to transport users during peak rush hours, nighttime, and bad weather scenarios – such as rainstorm conditions – poses an immense challenge in regards to the perception, prediction, planning and control capabilities of autonomous vehicles.
With the newly issued licenses, Baidu Apollo can deploy autonomous vehicles on public roads in the Pilot Zone between 16:00 and 22:00 to collect road test data under the aforementioned circumstances.
Beijing is one of the first cities in China to regulate autonomous vehicle road tests and issue test licenses. Last September, Beijing announced plans to build a high-level demonstration zone for autonomous vehicles in the Beijing Economic-Technological Development Area, otherwise known as E-Town.
These latest night and special weather test qualifications aim to advance L4 and higher-level autonomous driving to scale autonomous vehicle operations over time.
At the moment, Beijing has the longest open testing roads for autonomous vehicles in China, totaling 200 roads that combine for a collective distance of 699.58 kilometers. As of March 2021, autonomous vehicles in Beijing have been running safely for over 2.683 million kilometers.
Beijing has been a critical hub for Baidu’s development of cutting-edge autonomous driving technology. In June 2020, Baidu finished building Apollo Park in E-Town, covering 13,500 square meters and deploying over 200 Apollo autonomous vehicles.
In October 2020, Baidu Apollo launched the Apollo Go Robotaxi service to the public in Beijing. Over 90 percent of users who hailed Apollo Robotaxi rides expressed their willingness to continue using the service in the future, with 97 percent of riders stating that they would be willing to pay for their rides.
Baidu Apollo has assembled a fleet of more than 500 test vehicles that have run for over 7 million kilometers in urban road testing worldwide.
According to the 2018, 2019, and 2020 editions of the Beijing Autonomous Vehicles Road Test Report, Baidu topped industry peers with the largest fleet of test vehicles, highest total test mileage, and most diverse test scenarios.
In December 2020, Baidu Apollo obtained permission from Beijing transportation authorities to conduct fully driverless road tests.