Self-Driving Cars

Baidu Launches its Apolong II Self-Driving Minibus in China with No Steering Wheel or Pedals for its ‘Apollo Go’ Ride-Hailing Service

Baidu Launches its Apolong II Self-Driving Minibus in China with No Steering Wheel or Pedals for its 'Apollo Go' Ride-Hailing Service

The self-driving Apolong II Minibus will be used in Baidu’s “Apollo Go” transportation service.

Chinese technology giant Baidu, Inc. announced the launch of Apolong II, a new generation of multi-purpose autonomous minibuses that are being rolled out in Guangzhou Huangpu District. The fully-autonomous shuttle will be used as part of a commercial robotaxi service and is powered by the company’s Apollo autonomous driving platform. The Apolong II has no steering wheel or pedals and is designed to operate without human intervention.

The first generation Apolong, which has been in production since 2018, was the first commercial-grade autonomous electric minibus launched in China. It was also the first self-driving minibus to achieve large-scale operations in China, serving 120,000 users while traveling a total of 120,000 kilometers. It has been deployed in 22 urban parks in Beijing, Guangzhou, Xiong’an, Chongqing, Foshan and others.

Baidu, which is often referred to as the “Google of China”, has been working on self-driving technology since launching its open autonomous driving platform called “Apollo” in 2017.

The tech giant aims to be the first company to scale and commercialize autonomous driving technology in China. Baidu’s plans include scaling its commercial ride-hailing service called “Apollo Go” using fully-autonomous vehicles.

The Apolong II minibus effectively mirrors the autonomous driving capabilities of Baidu’s other Apollo robotaxis by incorporating the latest self-developed autonomous driving computing unit and sensor system.

The Apolong II is equipped with the latest Baidu autonomous driving capabilities and is highly configurable. It can be customized for public transport, mobile policing, healthcare providers and other commercial industry uses. Compared to the first generation, the Apolong II received 155 capability enhancements, according to Baidu.

Among the updates, the compute power of Apolong II has increased threefold to 372 Tops (372 trillion operations per second).

The perception system of the Apolong II was enhanced to include two 40-channel LiDAR sensors, which integrate with millimeter-wave radars and surround view cameras for complete 360 perception coverage around the vehicle. The refined sensor system can now detect objects up to 250 meters ahead. All of the self-driving systems are fully redundant to ensure safety and reliability.

Powered by Baidu’s Apollo autonomous driving platform, the Apolong II can successfully navigate on urban roads and perform maneuvers that were once difficult for self-driving vehicles, such as unprotected left turns, automatic lane changes and traveling through intersections with pedestrian crossings.

The Apolong II is designed to be part of a larger mobility ecosystem. It’s designed to complement other autonomous vehicles or traditional public transport that can greatly reduce the walking distance of users, Baidu says. The vehicle can be repurposed for last-mile public transportation, ride-hailing services, scenic tours and more.

The Apolong II utilizes Baidu’s vehicle-to-everything (V2X) and 5G remote driving service. The remote driving service allows for a human operation to remotely take over control of the vehicles in situations where software encounters a problem, such as in construction zones resulting in lane closures.

The V2X communications technology, which Baidu calls “Apollo Air“, allows its self-driving vehicles to communicate with other nearby vehicles, traffic lights, buildings or with embedded sensors in the roadway. The technology can make roads safer by alerting other vehicles in real-time about current road conditions.

By using V2X technology to communicate with road sensors and other vehicles, Baidu says that issues related to smart driving for individual vehicles can be reduced by 54%, while emergency braking situations at intersections are reduced by 90%.

Baidu also made refinements inside the Apolong II to improve passenger comfort. Its spacious smart cabin is designed with a circular seating arrangement with dome lighting fixtures to provide a unique cabin experience for passengers.

The Apolong II also comes with cutting-edge smart cabin solutions, including an intelligent 55-inch “transparent window display” jointly developed by Baidu and BOE Technology. The massive display shows the road conditions and autonomous driving technologies at work.

Apolong II passengers can also use this HD screen to voice-activate and command its in-vehicle DuerOS assistant, which provides access to navigation features to explore the surrounding area for dining or entertainment options.

In June, Baidu revealed an electric robotaxi vehicle called “Apollo Moon” that will eventually be used in the expanding Apollo Go service. Baidu says the Apollo Moon EV is a “monumental milestone in the large-scale commercialization of fully autonomous ride-hailing services in China.” The company plans to deploy 1,000 of its Apollo Moon robotaxis over the next three years.

While the multi-passenger Apolong II will be deployed in public parks, airports, business districts and residential communities in the Huangpu District of Guangzhou.

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Donovan Larsen

Donovan is a columnist and associate editor at the Dark News. He has written on everything from the politics to diversity issues in the workplace.

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