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This is the Beijing neighborhood where there are “robotaxi” and the purchase arrives in a vehicle without a driver

2022-06-29T10:41:36.138Z

The Beijing neighborhood known by the acronym BJHAD is a great laboratory for autonomous driving. Artificial intelligence is the great current technological bet of China.



A couple of minutes are enough from when a robotaxi is reserved through the mobile application until it arrives at the place.

It is two in the afternoon on a Thursday in the Chinese capital and the journey takes place without the need for human intervention.

“Sometimes we have to accelerate manually so as not to cause traffic jams.

Bicycles and motorcycles often slow down traffic because they don't respect the signals”, says the driver who limits himself to supervising the trip, while the steering wheel moves as if by magic.

The 60-square-kilometre Beijing High-level Automated Driving Demonstration Area (BJHAD) is the country's first pilot area in which different types of autonomous vehicles drive on public roads.

Located in a secluded district in the southeast, it has been the setting chosen as a rehearsal for a futuristic plan that hopes to turn the city into a benchmark for artificial intelligence (AI).

Baidu's Apollo robotaxis and JD.com (also known as Jingdong) delivery robots traverse its endless avenues, leaving a utopian image compared to the jungle of downtown traffic.

"[A robotaxi] receives an average of 15 daily reservations, mainly for trips from the subway to the office," adds the taxi driver.

Baidu and Pony.ai became the first companies allowed to operate a fleet of 100 robotaxis at BJHAD in November, and since April they have not required a human to sit in the driver's seat.

These cars are allowed to circulate at 60 kilometers per hour and their service continues to be free, although they have a commercial license.

Baidu, China's leading search engine, has opted to diversify its business by commercializing its AI and smart transportation technology.

Its Apollo Go program is available in seven cities, and aims to expand to 65 by 2025 and 100 by 2030. Unlike the Waymo robotaxis that Google began operating in the United States in 2020, Baidu's circulate during the day, collecting more data.

Although Baidu has topped the list of Chinese companies with the highest number of AI application patents for four consecutive years, at the forefront of autonomous vehicles is e-commerce giant JD.com.

At BJHAD, where Jingdong established its headquarters in 2016, robots under its banner dominate the streets.

The autonomous delivery vehicles mainly transport orders from the smart supermarket 7FRESH, a chain operated by JD that combines e-commerce and traditional commerce.

"Products come to people, rather than us looking for them," says Yang Han of Jingdong's communication department.

Thanks to big data analytics from JD.com's 400+ million annual users, 7FRESH's physical stores are tailored to your location's needs, while all inventory is available on the app.

The delivery robots, which travel at 15 kilometers per hour and can carry between 100 and 200 kilograms, deliver orders in less than an hour within a range of five kilometers.

At company offices, employees turn to smaller robots to send documents or other items in a matter of 10 minutes.

"They speed up the work a lot, we don't have to be running from one place to another," emphasizes Yang Han. In their trajectories, they call the elevator or open doors by themselves.

The robots recognize the environment and avoid obstacles, with an accuracy rate of 98% for small objects.

They receive the information through artificial vision cameras and other sensors and, thanks to the navigation algorithm, locate their location and plan or rethink their route.

JD's cloud simulation platform accumulates ride data, which improves driving ability.

This digitization process has been accelerated by the pandemic.

Jingdong has sent large and small delivery vehicles to Chinese cities that have been hit by the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in the past two and a half years.

During the peak of infections in early 2020 in Wuhan, they traveled a total of 6,800 kilometers and delivered more than 13,000 packages.

In a country in which social stability has a low unemployment rate among its fundamental pillars, however, this bet may be risky in the long run, to say the least.

Yang Han, however, insists that it is about “achieving a synergy between humans and machines”: “The goal is to relieve the pressure of the delivery men on the road and allow them to concentrate on customer service or vehicle maintenance.

The couriers wait for the robots to arrive, pick up the orders and deliver them to the door, but they don't have to transport them."

BJHAD belongs to the Beijing Economic and Technological Development Area, the first center specifically geared towards AI research in China.

The country's ambition is to be the world leader in AI by 2030 and definitively leave behind the image of "the world's factory".

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Source: elparis

All news articles on 2022-06-29

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