DeepRoute and Cao Cao Mobility will launch robotaxis in Hangzhou in 2021.
Plans for robotaxi trials seem to be heating up. There’s the Mobileye + WILLER plan for robotaxis in Japan — testing starting in 2021 and service expected to start in 2023. Mobileye + Volkswagen Group plan to bring robotaxis to commercialization in Israel in 2022. Waymo has been testing such services in limited locations in the US. DiDi just launched a robotaxi service in Shanghai — though, with safety drivers supervising for now.
Now, we have news of DeepRoute, an autonomous driving startup based in Shenzhen, partnering with Cao Cao Mobility, a ride-hailing platform, to put hundreds of robotaxis on the streets of Hangzhou by 2022 at the latest.
DeepRoute will use Geometry A electric vehicles from Geely to create the robotaxis. Geely invested RMB 1 billion ($145 million) in Cao Cao in 2018. Cao Cao now boasts the following stats:
- 50,000+ vehicles on ride-hailing platform
- 39.4 million registered users
- operating in 55 cities in China.
“The package includes the company’s in-house developed products like the inference engine DeepRoute-Tite, which helps cutting cost, size, and power consumption of the computing platform, and a camera system called DeepRoute-Vision, which allows the vehicles to accurately detect traffic light colors and traffic signs,” KrAsia writes.
DeepRoute’s self-driving system costs about RMB 250,000 ($36,124) per vehicle, and Dongfeng Motor was a previous customer. In this case, DeepRoute isn’t selling its tech. Instead, DeepRoute and Cao Cao will share robotaxi income. However, to start, the service will be free — in order to stimulate use.
They are starting the testing of 10 robotaxis sometime this year. Public use is expected to begin in 2021. It will launch via the existing Cao Cao app.
Earlier Robotaxi Services in China
KrAsia provides more context on earlier robotaxi services that have launched in China. “WeRide, which is chauffeuring people in a restricted area in Guangzhou since November 2019, chose a different model. The company buys vehicles from automakers, adds its autonomous driving systems, and teams up with traditional taxi operators to assist with operating the robotaxi fleet.
“After WeRide, Baidu (NASDAQ: BIDU) rolled out a robotaxi service in Changsha, in Central China’s Hunan province, in April, while Alibaba-backed AutoX launched its service in Shanghai this Monday. China’s largest ride-hailing platform Didi has started to offer test rides in its robotaxis on June 27, also in Shanghai.”
How well these early robotaxi services do will help determine how quickly the concept catches on. Naturally, these are not go-anywhere robotaxi services. They must stick to certain geographic areas where they can function. Nonetheless, if the geographic area is a large city, that’s typically all that passengers need.
Images courtesy of DeepRoute