China has sped up efforts to develop self-driving cars, with domestic tech companies testing autonomous vehicles in recent years.
Since 2019, tech giant Baidu has opened its robotaxi service to the general public in several cities in the country, allowing passengers to take the self-driving cabs for free via mobile apps.
Powered by the AI driving system, a robotaxi hit the road without even bothering to onboard passengers. Starting, accelerating, braking and parking – it can totally drive on its own, free from human intervention.
However, Chinese law requires safety drivers for autonomous vehicles to prevent potential accidents.
Full commercial operations of autonomous driving vehicles are still several years away with technical problems, high costs and lack of clear regulations, according to Baidu CEO Robin Li.
"Technology problems remain the biggest challenge," said Li in a tech event in 2020, adding that robotaxis wouldn't be fully commercialized until 2025. "The current market remained relatively small and that an underdeveloped supply chain meant costs were still high."