Chinese hi-tech firm Baidu has unveiled a plan to let driverless vehicles run freely around an entire city. The five-year plan will see the autonomous cars, vans and buses slowly introduced to the eastern city of Wuhu.
Initially no passengers will be carried by the vehicles as the technology to control them is refined via journeys along designated test zones. Eventually the test areas will be expanded and passengers will be able to use the vehicles.
Speaking in an interview with BBC Click Programme, Baidu’s head of driverless cars,Wang Jing, said the reason for choosing the city of Wuhu to test run its driverless vehicles is because it is the first city brave enough to test autonomous driving
“This is the first city that is brave enough, daring enough and innovative enough to test autonomous driving.They want to be the first city in the world to embrace autonomous driving.”
According to Jing, the first phase of the trial would last about three years and would involve restricted areas in the city where buses, mid-size vans and cars would be tested. After three years, the areas of the city in which the autonomous cars can drive will be expanded and the service will be commercialized to allow some of the three million inhabitants of Wuhu to use it.
After five years, the whole city will be open to the driverless vehicles which will mix with human-driven cars, trucks and buses. Jing added that the city was keen to use robot vehicles because they were a much more efficient way to transport people and goods.
A study released this week suggested that greater use of driverless cars could promote congestion. The study by accounting group KPMG suggested the robot cars could be used widely by groups, such as the young and old, who do not usually drive thereby increasing the numbers of vehicles on the road.