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Fully unmanned robotaxis to begin operations in Shenzhen

By QIU QUANLIN in Guangzhou | China Daily | Updated: 2023-06-20 10:15
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Fully unmanned robotaxi services are expected to soon begin in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, following a cooperation framework agreement signed between autonomous driving companies and local authorities to establish a commercial pilot autonomous driving project in the city.

The project, one of the first of its kind in China, is based on regular fully unmanned operation and will cover core areas including tourist attractions, central business districts, exhibition centers, airports and an ocean-themed urban area in Qianhai, part of the China (Guangdong) Pilot Free Trade Zone, according to the agreement.

The agreement was signed on Friday between autonomous driving service provider, travel platform Ontime and the administrative authority of the Shenzhen-Hong Kong Modern Service Industry Cooperation Zone in Qianhai.

According to the agreement, and Ontime will jointly build a professional robotaxi operations team in Qianhai to explore commercial multiparty business modes and improve operation capabilities of unmanned ride-hailing cars in terms of management systems, division of responsibilities and safety supervision.

The project will help accumulate operating experience for the further expansion of commercial application of autonomous driving technologies, according to the agreement.

Unlike most current robotaxi services, the project will forgo the roles of drivers or front-seat passenger safety officers in the car and eliminate the need for a human being to be on duty at any time to take over the vehicle.

Favorable policies have been introduced in many cities across the country to speed up the commercial operation of robotaxi services in recent years.

A regulation on intelligent connected vehicles management came into effect in Shenzhen in August 2019, making it the first city in China to allow fully unmanned autonomous driving services on the road.

Chinese autonomous driving companies including Baidu Apollo,, AutoX and have increased their investment and promoted various forms of robotaxi services nationwide, following more cities such as Chongqing, Wuhan and Beijing having approved fully unmanned autonomous driving commercial demonstration services.

It will be the first time for a travel service company to participate extensively in fully unmanned robotaxi services in Shenzhen, according to sources with Ontime.

Previously, robotaxi driving was mostly independently operated by autonomous driving companies as fully unmanned services allow passengers to experience the technological advancement more directly.

"Robotaxis are entering the commercial service stage across the country, and the commercial operation has become a key factor to the sustainable development of robotaxis as a travel service," said Feng Xingya, president of GAC Group.

Travel platforms have rich operational experience and user bases, complementing autonomous driving companies organically, which will help facilitate the commercial operation of robotaxis, according to Feng.

Ontime, a mobile transportation platform affiliated with GAC Group, launched operations consisting of manned and autonomous vehicles in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong, in October last year, becoming the first travel platform in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area to realize such operation of robotaxis.

According to a report on robotaxi development issued last year by the Forward Industry Research Institute, nearly 42.6 percent of users will try traveling by robotaxis to experience new technologies.

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