Self-driving cars are gradually moving into more complex environments and commercial applications. AutoX Inc. today announced that its RoboTaxi ride-hailing service is now open to the general public in Shanghai. The autonomous vehicles can be booked through Alibaba AutoNavi smartphone app.
Shenzhen, China-based AutoX has been developing the artificial intelligence software stack for autonomous vehicles with the stated goal of “democratizing autonomy” by providing universal access to transportation of people and goods. Dr. Jianxiong Xiao, a technologist educated at MIT and Princeton University, founded the company in 2016.
AutoX has eight offices and five research and development centers around the world. It has raised $160 million from investors including Shanghai Auto, Dongfeng Motor, Alibaba, MediaTek, Capital Today, and Gobi Ventures.
RoboTaxi to take on traffic in China’s largest city
The AutoX Driver platform can handle the densest and most dynamic traffic conditions in cities around the world, claimed AutoX. The company noted that it is one of two permit holders for completely driverless transit in California, and its partners include Fiat Chrysler, Ford Motors, and Dongfeng Motors.
AutoX has also partnered with Letzgo, which operates more than 16,000 vehicles in more than 18 cities across China. The companies said their partnership marks a step forward for AutoX’s business model, as AutoX provides its AutoX Driver platform and Letzgo runs daily fleet operations.
The taxi company’s staff will be trained to operate RoboTaxis at AutoX’s Shanghai Operations Center, which opened in April this year. This will allow AutoX RoboTaxis to be hailed through Letzgo’s smartphone app in addition to Alibaba’s AutoNavi in the coming weeks.
Rides can be hailed in Shanghai’s Jiading District, following AutoX’s agreement with municipal authorities to allow a fleet of 100 vehicles to operate there.
Safety measures and more testing
AutoX said it has taken special precautions to keep riders safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Upon entering a RoboTaxi, customers only need to say the last four digits of their cellphone numbers to a voice-recognition system within the vehicle to start their journey.
During the trip, passengers can monitor their progress with an internal screen, where objects around the RoboTaxi vehicle are also displayed so that they can understand how an autonomous vehicle perceives the world and makes decisions.
In addition to Shanghai, AutoX is testing autonomous vehicles in Shenzhen, Wuhan, and Wuhu, as well as several other cities around the world such as San Jose, Calif. The company said it plans to launch the RoboTaxi service in these cities in the coming months.