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AutoX Inc. today announced that it has rolled out fully driverless robotic taxicabs on the streets of downtown Shenzhen, China, in what it said is the first time a completely autonomous fleet without accompanying safety drivers or remote operators has been deployed in that nation. The company has been conducting driverless stress tests in the Tier 1 city, which has the highest population density in China, for the past six months.
Dr. Jianxiong Xiao, a.k.a. “Prof. X,” a self-driving technologist from MIT and Princeton University, founded AutoX in 2016. The startup said it has been developing artificial intelligence with the goal of “democratizing autonomy” to “provide universal access to transportation of people and goods.” AutoX claimed that its AutoX Driver system can handle the densest and most dynamic urban traffic conditions.
In July, AutoX was the second company to receive a permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles for completely driverless robotaxi operations up to 45 mph on public roads. In China, it has deployed more than 100 autonomous vehicles for ride-hailing services in Shanghai, Shenzhen, and other cities. The company has offices in Shenzhen and San Jose, Calif., as well as six other offices and five research and development centers around the world.
AutoX releases fifth-generation system
AutoX said its new fifth-generation system is intended to support the first hardware-ready, fully autonomous vehicle deployments in urban settings. It includes upgraded sensing technology to handle complex traffic scenarios such as when pedestrians, fast cyclists, and small pets interact at close range to a vehicle simultaneously, said the company.
The fifth-generation sensing system fuses an array of ultra high-resolution cameras — designed in-house by AutoX – with lidar sensors placed on both sides of the vehicles, as well as advanced 4D radar sensors. It also has multiple blind-spot sensing suites on all sides of the vehicle, in order to create surround vision that can detect even small objects, according to AutoX.
China said to be more challenging than California
AutoX said the RoboTaxi Operations Center in Shanghai that it opened in April now serves as the largest data hub for self-driving car data in Asia. The company said it “has been accumulating significant miles of real road data” from its tests of 25 RoboTaxis in Shenzhen and five vehicles in other cities around the world.
In addition, AutoX said that its fleets in China interact with denser traffic, more challenging traffic conditions, and a much larger number of road users than in California. The Alibaba-backed company said this is helping it to rapidly improve its driving capabilities.
In its latest video (above), the fully driverless RoboTaxi maneuvers around illegally parked vehicles and loading trucks, yields to pedestrians and scooters, handles construction sites, and makes an unprotected U-turn. The company said its “full-stack” AutoX Driver platform “100% executed” these actions “without any remote operation or human assistance.”