Chinese tech giant Baidu has been working on its own self-driving technology and the company is now reportedly gearing up to launch its self-driving buses in Japan next year. Baidu’s Apolong fully self-driving bus has been developed in collaboration with Chinese manufacturer King Long and it will be first rolled out in a handful of Chinese cities before it lands in Japan.
Bloomberg reports that Baidu has ramped up the production of the Apolong bus which is the first product based on its Apollo self-driving platform. The company aims to ship the first batch of buses to Japan early next year in partnership with a subsidiary owned by Japan’s SoftBank conglomerate. Over 100 buses have already been produced at the plant in southern China.
The buses can carry 14 passengers and like true autonomous vehicles, they have no steering wheel or even a driver’s seat. Apolong will have level 4 autonomous capabilities which don’t require a driver behind the wheel when operating in a specific geographic area.
Baidu will first bring 10 of these buses to Tokyo and other Japanese cities early next year before possibly increasing the number and the cities they service down the road. The buses will initially make their debut in major Chinese cities including Beijing, Shenzhen, and Wuhan. They will pick passengers up in tourist areas, parks, airports, and other geo-fenced areas at first.