Apollo ready to send robot buses into cities
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.
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.