JIDU Robocar Released

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Back in June, we covered Baidu and Geely’s new robotaxi design, slated to be built by their joint venture: JIDU. Now, a limited edition of the car has been announced, with pricing to match.

About the Robo 1

Back in July, we pointed out that JIDU’s car was designed to be autonomous from the start. The steering wheel can be folded away when the car is driving, freeing up interior space. In addition, there are extra LED lights that help drivers communicate with other vehicles on the road. Finally, voice recognition software helps people give commands to the car and also lets nearby individuals know important information. This is shown at the end of this demo video, with the car saying “我是 Robo One” (Mandarin for “I am Robo One”):

Most autonomous vehicle projects have large, unattractive sensors that are constantly on display. However, with the Robo-01, such sensors can be hidden away behind closed doors. This not only makes the car more aesthetically pleasing, but also safer in the event of an accident involving a pedestrian.

With JIDU’s advanced infotainment system, comfortable “zero gravity” seats, and a huge display that extends across the whole dashboard, you’ll have plenty of comfort and technology at your disposal no matter if you’re driving or letting Robo One drive himself.

“The Intelligent Car 3.0 Era is the era of robocars,” said Xia Yiping, CEO of JIDU, in June. “The transition to this new era is marked by the shift of driving power from humans to AI, with robocars ultimately achieving self-generating progress led by AI. The automotive industry in the 3.0 era will see a seismic shift from a revolution in energy to a revolution in product attributes. The ultimate goal is to realize a fully driverless transportation experience. The JIDU robocar aims to meet users’ needs for intelligent travel, in-car intelligent assistance and intelligent cabin in the new era.”

JIDU’s June press release says that the final production vehicle will come in the fall, and be at least 90% similar to this concept vehicle. Now, the company has released some more details on the final version.

One important detail from their announcement tweets is that they call their system “Point to Point Autopilot.” JIDU stated that the company has covered over 36 million kilometers of autonomous driving test miles, including real road tests by robotaxis in more than 30 cities across China. Apollo’s high-level autonomous driving capabilities have been undeniably proven, constructed on the continual improvement of its ability to navigate complex urban roads. JIDU is constantly improving its high-level intelligent driving in Beijing and Shanghai, using industry-leading R&D to develop a final version of its Point-to-Point Autopilot that will be available soon in all major cities across China.

ROBO-01 Lunar Edition is a state-of-the-art vehicle that comes equipped with 31 drive sensors (2 LIDAR, 5-millimeter wave radar, 12 ultrasonic radars, 12 HD cameras) that allow for 360-degree sensing. It also includes the first robotics voice AI algorithms to achieve full volume localization and can recognize voices at speeds as fast as 500ms, and respond within 700ms — independent from network signals.

The car has a wind resistance coefficient of 0.249, as well as body dimensions of: length 4853mm / width 1990mm / height 1611mm. Its wheelbase extends up to 3000mm and it is equipped with a CATL 100kWh ternary lithium battery, allowing for a 600+ km range. With dual motors peaking total power at 400 kW, this model accelerates from zero to 100 km/h in only 3.9 seconds — offering robust powertrain options for anyone interested.

Before the launch event, JIDU offered 1000 Chief Experience Officer positions for the ROBO-01 Lunar Edition and received many reservations. Joe Xia, CEO of JIDU, later announced at the event that they would be opening an additional 1,000 positions with entitlement bonuses such as lifetime high-level intelligent driving, warranties, free charging, and customized digital collectibles.

JIDU’s second robocar will debut at the Guangzhou Auto Show in 2022. The Lunar Edition and standard edition of ROBO-01 will be delivered beginning in 2023.

How Did This Come Out So Fast?

I know some readers are probably wondering how Baidu could show up on the scene with this car so quickly when all of the other companies we hear about all the time are struggling, but that’s not really the case. Baidu’s been at this for a while, and it’s not that different from other companies that we’re familiar with.

It’s peculiar how much faith the general public has in tech companies to excel in areas outside of their original experience. For example, we assume that since Google was fantastic at giving us efficient search results, it’s do just as well with autonomous vehicles — despite the fact that the company didn’t have any prior experience in the other lane. We trust Tesla, which used to only produce electric cars, to now create self-driving ones simply because it has a background in putting vehicles into production. But, if you think about it, none of these things are really outside of either company’s lanes anymore.

In order for consumers to develop trust, they need to be knowledgeable about the company. While almost every person in America would recognize Google, Yahoo, and even MSN (probably because it is the default homepage on Microsoft browsers), few know Baidu. However, Baidu holds around three-quarters of the Chinese internet market share. Therefore, globally speaking, Baidu is a vital part of the internet community.

Likewise, similar to how Google has been reinvesting its profits from search engine success into other computer science projects, Baidu has followed in suit. One such project is Apollo, also known as Apolong or 阿波龙. In 2017, not only did Baidu start working on autonomous vehicles, but it open-sourced the code so that partners from all over the world could help in developing software and hardware associated with it. Baidu has continued to increase testing and development of these services rapidly; today offering taxi services in dozens of Chinese cities.

Baidu’s release of its new autonomous vehicle came as a surprise to many, myself included. Yet, whether we were aware of the Chinese tech company or not, it is now a major player in the race to get self-driving cars on the road — and it’s only going to become more dominant with its first car set to hit the street soon.

Featured image provided by Baidu.

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Jennifer Sensiba

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to get off the beaten path in her "Bolt EAV" and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and YouTube here.

Jennifer Sensiba has 2020 posts and counting. See all posts by Jennifer Sensiba