Previously, companies operating autonomous shuttles on public roads in the country were constrained by strict warnings and needed a safe driver inside.
This program is different.In Shenzhen, AutoX has completely removed the backup driver or remote operator For 25 local fleets, it said. The government does not limit where AutoX operates in the city, but says the company is focusing on the downtown area.
The company has released a video of a minivan, the Fiat Chrysler Pacifica, moving around the city’s downtown area on its own, with passengers boarding, loading luggage in the backseats, and spinning dogs.
It also shows a car that navigates the loading of trucks, passes pedestrians, and makes U-turns.
“It’s a dream,” AutoX CEO Jianxiong Xiao said in an interview. “After years of hard work, we’ve finally matured enough to be confident in really getting rid of safety drivers.”
Xiao said the company won the regulatory agency after working on improving both software and hardware. “We drive more than 100 vehicles every day [in China] To capture the data, “he said.” AI software is better [now.]””
“From a technical point of view, the car is ready,” Xiao said. “It’s very important to own this car, otherwise you won’t be able to drive unmanned.”
AutoX was founded in 2016 by Xiao, a former assistant professor at Princeton University who still prefers to be called “Professor X”. Based in Shenzhen, the company focuses on developing the technology used in self-driving cars and has partnered with major automakers such as Fiat Chrysler to develop and launch Robotaxi.
The new initiative is still in trial mode and is not currently open to the public. According to Xiao, he said he would like to get permission to extend the program to regular passengers within the next few years.
AutoX claims to have an edge in China, but this isn’t the first time a fully autonomous shuttle has run on public roads. This summer, the company received approval to conduct fully autonomous testing on some public roads in San Jose, California, clearing another hurdle in one of its most important markets.
Domestic competition is also intensifying. Recently, Chinese companies have begun to let more and more people experience what it’s like to drive a self-driving car.
AutoX has already deployed over 100 robotaxis in five Chinese cities, including Shanghai and Wuhan. Next year, we aim to double our reach to more than 10 local cities. Whether the company can pull people in other markets depends on local regulators, Xiao said.
In Shanghai, the vehicles are available to the general public who can call them via Alibaba’s Autonavi app, which is a Chinese mapping app.
The latest approval of the startup from the Shenzhen municipality came after a six-month trial already conducted in Shenzhen.
According to Xiao, some of the company’s lessons so far include ways to better adapt to traffic conditions at each location. In Shenzhen, for example, drivers often have to be careful with cyclists on bicycles and scooters, and drivers are known to drive more aggressively than in the United States, he said.
“Traffic scenarios are much more difficult,” he added. “For our AI, we had to do a lot of work to adapt to the local driving methods in China.”
But the industry is still facing a long way. Xiao estimates that it could take another five years for unmanned taxis to become the norm across China.
“The bar is incredibly expensive,” he said. “It’s very challenging, but we’re very happy.”