Baidu and Pony.ai are the first companies to be licensed to offer their services to the public for a fee, with Baidu having completed its first bill collection today.

Beijing allows self-driving mobility providers to pilot charging fees, becoming first Chinese city to do so-CnEVPost

(Image credit: Baidu)

Beijing has begun allowing self-driving mobility service providers to charge fees on a pilot basis, the first city in China to do so, marking the move from testing to the commercial exploration of this new model of travel.

Beijing authorities today announced the management rules of a pilot self-driving mobility service commercialization program and issued the first licenses to Baidu and Pony.ai.

Self-driving travel service providers can adopt market-based pricing mechanisms and can start charging for their services on the premise of clarifying the charging principles and payment methods to passengers, according to the rules.

Baidu and Pony.ai can now put no more than 100 self-driving vehicles on commercial pilot services in a 60-square-kilometer area in Beijing's Yizhuang Economic and Technological Development Zone.

Baidu has acted quickly to open the charging function for the service today, with a resident of Yizhuang completing the first payment using Apollo Go, Baidu's Apollo self-driving travel service platform.

Beijing allows self-driving mobility providers to pilot charging fees, becoming first Chinese city to do so-CnEVPost

(Image credit: Baidu)

Baidu currently has 67 vehicles being used for this trial operation and is equipped with safety officers.

Baidu Apollo is one of the first companies in China to get involved in autonomous driving, with a total test mileage of over 16 million kilometers so far, and Apollo Go has been opened for regular operation in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Changsha, and Cangzhou.

Baidu expects Apollo Go service to expand to 65 cities by 2025 and 100 cities by 2030. In the third quarter of this year, Apollo Go provided 115,000 rides.

Notably, Baidu began work to ramp up the commercialization of its self-driving mobility service in the first half of this year.

Baidu announced on May 10 that Wei Dong, formerly CEO of Shouqi Limousine & Chauffeur, joined Baidu as vice president of the Intelligent Driving Business Group and chief safety operations officer of the Baidu Intelligent Driving Business Group.

Wei will lead the commercial operations of Baidu's Apollo shared unmanned vehicles, the company said at the time.

Beijing is one of the cities providing the most active support for operators in the autonomous driving space.

In April, the city set up China's first intelligent connected vehicle policy pioneer zone to promote road testing, demonstration applications, and commercial operation services.

To date, autonomous driving companies have accumulated nearly 3 million kilometers of safe testing in the zone, laying the foundation for commercialization pilots.

The zone will gradually expand the scope of commercialization pilot areas in due course on a safe and controlled basis, and support companies to gradually transition from unmanned road testing to unmanned commercialization pilot, according to local officials.

It is worth noting that Shanghai is probably not far from opening a similar pilot.

Shanghai will promote self-driving cabs to carry out toll-based pilot operations, Xinhua reported earlier this month.

Shanghai will support the pilot of intelligent connected vehicles to carry out large-scale demonstration applications and trial operations, allowing companies that meet the conditions to charge certain fees to service recipients, and seeking to issue operating qualifications to companies with outstanding demonstration results, according to the report.

Baidu's Apollo providing far more self-driving mobility services than Waymo

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