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Chinese Joint Venture Will Begin Mass-Producing an Autonomous Electric Car

Sunday December 4, 2022. 01:34 PM , from Slashdot
IEEE Spectrum reports:

In October, a startup called Jidu Automotive, backed by Chinese AI giant Baidu and Chinese carmaker Geely, officially released an autonomous electric car, the Robo-01 Lunar Edition. In 2023, the car will go on sale.

At roughly US $55,000, the Robo-01 Lunar Edition is a limited edition, cobranded with China's Lunar Exploration Project. It has two lidars, a 5-millimeter-range radar, 12 ultrasonic sensors, and 12 high-definition cameras. It is the first vehicle to offer on-board, AI-assisted voice recognition, with voice response speeds within 700 milliseconds, thanks to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8295 chip. 'It's a car, and, even more so, a robot,' said Jidu CEO Joe Xia, during the live-streamed unveiling of the car (as translated from the Mandarin by CNBC). He added that it 'can become the standard for self-driving cars.'
But just how autonomous the car is remains to be seen: In January 2022 Baidu and Jidu said the car would have Level 4 autonomous driving capability, which does not require a human driver to control the vehicle. But the press release at the car's launch made no mention of Level 4, saying only that the car offered 'high-level autonomous driving....' In September 2022, Baidu cofounder and CEO Robin Li noted that lower levels of autonomy shield car companies from liability in the event of a crash, because the driver is expected to be in control. With Level 4, the manufacturer of the car or the operator of the 'robotaxi' service using the car would be to blame....

Regardless of the car's official autonomy designation, Baidu has billed its self-driving package, Apollo, as having Level 4 capabilities. That includes what the company calls a Point-to-Point Autopilot, designed to handle highway, city street, and parking scenarios. Jidu is conducting further tests in Beijing and Shanghai to ensure that its Point-to-Point Autopilot will cover all major cities in China. Chinese regulations do allow Level 4 in robotaxis that operate within designated geofenced areas, and Apollo has already shown what it can do in Baidu's Apollo Go robotaxis, which have delivered more than 1 million rides in at least 10 cities across China.

Baidu recently unveiled its latest autonomous robotaxi, the Level-4 Apollo RT6, which has a detachable steering wheel. The absence of a steering wheel is a statement in itself, and it frees up cabin space for extra seating or even desktops, gaming consoles, and vending machines.
Meanwhile CNBC notes that the four-seat Robo-01 'has replaced the dashboard with a long screen extending across the front of the car and removed cockpit buttons — since the driver can use voice control instead, said Jidu CEO Joe Xia.

'Theoretically, the half-moon of a steering wheel can fold up, paving the way for a cockpit seat with no window obstructions, once full self-driving is allowed on China's roads....'

Xia claimed Jidu 'can become the standard for self-driving cars....'

Co-investor Geely has pushed into the electric car industry with its own vehicles, and announced in November a multi-year plan to build up the software component of the cars. The automaker said it aimed to commercialize full self-driving under specific conditions, called 'Level Four' autonomous driving in a classification system, by 2025.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.
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