Apollo ready to send ro­bot buses into cities

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING - — Wheels Re­porter.

CHI­NESE com­pa­nies Apollo and Baidu have built 100 Apo­long self-driv­ing minibuses and plans to send the ro­bot taxis all over China next year.

This makes Apollo the big­gest builder of these toaster-shaped minibuses, com­pared to six sim­i­lar ro­bot buses be­ing tested around the world.

These range from the 3Dprinted Olli from Lo­cal Mo­tors in Wash­ing­ton DC, to the VW Sedric, which is more of a ro­bot peo­ple mover, to Toy­ota’s self­driv­ing plat­form which can be turned into a taxi or truck.

The Apo­long ro­bot bus can seat and stand up to 14 pas­sen­gers and will start op­er­at­ing in sev­eral cities in China later this year, in­clud­ing Bei­jing and Shen­zhen. Ini­tially, the Apo­long will op­er­ate only in fenced lo­ca­tions, such as parks, busi­ness parks and air­ports.

Made in record time

The Apo­long Level 4 au­tonomous bus has been built by King Long and drives it­self thanks to the Apollo open plat­form de­vel­oped by Chi­nese lan­guage search en­gine provider Baidu, with work on the shut­tle hav­ing started only in Oc­to­ber last year.

The Apo­long’s on-board sen­sor ar­ray in­cludes laser radar, mil­lime­tre wave radar and HDR and stereo cam­era mod­ules, it has a lightweight com­pos­ite build with curved glass up­per, and ben­e­fits from wide elec­tric doors.

Ver­sion 3.0 uses over 220 000 lines of open source code from over 10 000 de­vel­op­ers since its launch last year, and in­volves 116 global part­ners from the au­to­mo­tive and tech­nol­ogy spa­ces.

The Chi­nese bus is also head­ing to Ja­pan next year, im­ported by SB Drive, the au­tonomous ve­hi­cle wing of the SoftBank Group. “In Ja­pan, pub­lic trans­porta­tion is fac­ing a num­ber of chal­lenges, in­clud­ing traf­fic net­work re­duc­tion, driver short­age and driver age­ing,” said SB Drive’s Yuki Saji said in a state­ment. “We ex­pect self-driv­ing tech­nol­ogy will solve these prob­lems in the near fu­ture. Launch­ing Apo­long is an im­por­tant step to main­tain pub­lic trans­porta­tion in Ja­pan.”

Apollo said it aims to have the Apo­long mini-buses run on “sim­ple city roads” by 2020 and on high­ways by 2021.

PHOTO: BAIDU

De­vel­op­ment on the open-source Apo­long self-driv­ing minibus started late last year, but Baidu, Google’s ri­val in China, aims to have the buses trans­port peo­ple in fenced lo­ca­tions, like air­ports, next year and to un­leash them on high­ways by 2021.

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