Baidu RT6 Robotaxi L4 Autonomous MPV | Latest Updates

Baidu recently revealed the RT6 Robotaxi, a fully electric MPV-style vehicle capable of level-4 autonomous driving.

But what does the Baidu RT6 mean for driverless taxis? Well, as it turned out, quite a lot.

While Elon Musk has been promising a fleet of fully autonomous robotaxis for years, Baidu, the Google of China, is busy racking up driverless miles of its own. More than 20 million of them in fact.

RT6 is the sixth generation of this technology, and so Baidu invited us to be the first English-speaking media to come up with it. Read on to know more and watch the video below.

Baidu’s history with autonomous vehicles

Baidu may be more famous for search engine dominance in China, but they also have a long history with autonomous vehicles, almost a decade in fact.

In fact, it’s a natural progression for them, because like Google Maps in other countries, Baidu is the company that also maps all of China’s roads and provides this data to many of China’s EV start-ups today.

Based on that knowledge, Baidu began investing in autonomous cars, starting with a simple ATV fitted with a few sensors. Over the years this capability has grown atop the roofs of existing Chinese cars which are often equipped with a comical array of technology and sensors.

In the years following that research, Baidu gradually developed enough to earn the right to operate driverless taxis in special areas in ten cities across China as part of its Apollo Go program.

The warnings for those cars were twofold. First, Baidu had to retrofit existing cars such as the Lincoln Continental and more recently the ArcFox Alpha T.

Second, while the cars ran free of a driver, a security driver was present in the passenger seat at all times.

But everything changed this month as Baidu became the only operator in China licensed to offer 100% driverless taxis in China. That means there are no drivers, and no security monitors. The first phase of this license is limited to the cities of Wuhan and Chongqing.

So what about the RT6?

The Baidu RT6 is the latest product of all that knowledge and is the company’s first robotaxi built by Baidu itself.

Built on their new Xinghe platform specifically designed for fully autonomous cars, the RT6 differs from previous iterations by integrating the technology into the car itself.

A full suite of 38 sensors and cameras, including 8 LiDar units and 12 high definition cameras, help you navigate the car safely in some of the most challenging driving conditions you can imagine.

What does it take to handle all that information? Common metric for measuring the processing power of autonomous services, not less than 1200 TOPS (Tera Operations Per Second).

In comparison, Tesla’s FSD service currently operates with only 144 TOPS.

All that knowledge and processing power is said to give the RT6 the driving ability of a skilled driver with over 20 years of experience.

However, the most important of these is the price. With the Baidu RT6 coming in at just 250,000 RMB (about $36,000), the technology is more affordable than ever and is about half the price of the fifth generation.

So how is it?

As an early prototype, in our spec, the RT6 was not yet ready for driving in any way, autonomous or otherwise, but we were able to see how it might be specified in the future.

The launch model only comes with three seats and no steering wheel, which is a curious thing to see – a glimpse into a not-too-distant future.

The driver’s seat was replaced by a drink cooler and table, representing the flexibility offered by this new platform.

Baidu says the interior can be set up in a variety of ways, including with more seats, a desktop for work, a vending machine or even with a gaming console. Imagine checking out Gran Turismo when your steering wheel-free car takes you to the airport!

The interior itself is cavernous and sliding rear doors help the cabin. In this set-up, passengers get over one meter of legroom with enough room to sit on each seat.

Between the two rear seats sits a console with a tablet-style screen in the middle for display purposes.

The seats, somewhat lacking in any kind of bolting, feature white and brown leather with gray fabric, while Baidu opted for a very fine blue seatbelt for contrast.

The roof of the Alcantara Line RT6 and several triangular glass segments form a stylish panoramic roof that, along with a large glasshouse, will give the cabin an airy feel on a sunny day.

You will also find built-in cameras for the safety of the passengers. Oh and that missing steering wheel? It is detachable, so you can take it or leave it.

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On the outside, the RT6 adopts an MPV-style body with rounded styling front and rear and Matrix-style lights.

Black paint under the glasshouse gives the impression of large windows, and blue accents add some highlights to the predominantly white body. The rear side has also been painted black.

The door handles are flush to the body and make way for traditional mirror blade-like camera units, both of which help the RT6 glide through the air as efficiently as possible.

That task is made easier by the integration of that extensive sensor list, which includes three LiDAR units mounted above the windscreen, two in the front wings of the front doors, one in the center of the front and rear bumpers, and one at the rear. window above.

Large brushed metal triangular sections and five-spoke alloys with contrasting black and blue sections, to great effect. They look really sharp and give the RT6 a big wheel vibe.

It is not short either, measuring 4.76m tall with 2.83m wheelbase. There is no measurement on height or width but it is at least 1.8 meters tall.

What does RT6 mean for driverless taxis?

Baidu thinks a lot, the main point is the accessible price point. The technology is so cheap now, Baidu predicts that such robotaxis could halve the cost of taking a taxi in the future.

This will certainly come at a price for taxi drivers roles, but if you’ve ever experienced the occasional thrill of a Chinese taxi driver on a mission, you might think that’s not a bad thing!

Undoubtedly the first use of fully driverless taxis in Wuhan and Chongqing, currently using the ArcFox platform and fifth-gen technology, will play an important role in developing the confidence needed for driverless taxis, but the RT6 ready to take it. Take the experience up a notch in 2023.

Could it finally be the car that makes the image of spacious, flexible and affordable driverless taxis a reality? We’ll let you know when we get a chance to ride in 2023.

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