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Baidu unveils next-generation autonomous vehicle for robotaxi operation

Baidu, China’s equivalent of Google or Alphabet, has unveiled its next-generation fully autonomous vehicle, the Apollo RT6, an all-electric, production-ready model with a detachable steering wheel.

Designed for complex urban environments, Apollo RT6 will be put into operation in China in 2023 on Apollo Go, Baidu’s autonomous ride-hailing service.

With a per unit cost of RMB 250,000 (approximately $37,000), the arrival of Apollo RT6 is set to accelerate autonomous vehicle deployment at scale, bringing the world closer to a future of driverless shared mobility.

Speaking at Baidu World 2022, the company’s flagship technology conference, Robin Li, co-founder and CEO of Baidu, said: “This massive cost reduction will enable us to deploy tens of thousands of autonomous vehicles across China. We are moving towards a future where taking a robotaxi will be half the cost of taking a taxi today.”

As Baidu’s 6th generation autonomous vehicle, Apollo RT6 is distinct from previous generations that were otherwise retrofitted on conventional vehicles. 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.

At 4760 mm long with a wheelbase of 2830 mm, the rider-first Apollo RT6 delivers comfort with independent rear seating, ample rear legroom of 1050 mm, a purely flat floor and an intelligent interaction system.

The Apollo RT6 exterior features a revolutionary look that seamlessly integrates sensors on the sunroof alongside interactive lights and intelligent electric sliding doors to further enhance the riding experience.

Apollo RT6 integrates Baidu’s most advanced L4 autonomous driving system, powered by automotive-grade dual computing units with a computing power of up to 1200 TOPS. The vehicle utilizes 38 sensors, including 8 LiDARs and 12 cameras, to obtain highly accurate, long-range detection on all sides.

The safety and reliability of Apollo RT6 are backed by a massive trove of real-world data, a total test mileage of over 32 million kilometers (approximately 20 million miles) driven by Baidu’s autonomous vehicle to date.

Speaking at Baidu World 2022, Zhenyu Li, senior corporate vice president of Baidu and general manager of Intelligent Driving Group, said the autonomous driving capability of Apollo RT6 is equivalent to a skilled driver with 20 years of experience.

Apollo RT6 is the first vehicle model built on Xinghe, Baidu’s self-developed automotive E/E architecture specially for fully autonomous driving. The vehicle is 100 percent automotive-grade and has full redundancy throughout both hardware and autonomous driving software.

The creation of Apollo RT6 marks another milestone for Baidu to achieve its goal of providing safer, greener and more efficient mobility solutions. As the world’s largest robotaxi service provider, Apollo Go has expanded to 10 cities in China since its launch in 2020, including all first-tier cities, and provided more than 1 million orders.

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