Baidu expects robotaxi unit to break even by 2024, profit by 2025 · TechNode

Chinese search engine giant Baidu said on Wednesday it expects its key robotaxi business to break even in the fourth quarter of this year and aims to be the first autonomous ride-hailing project to profit by 2025, as planned. The country’s top search engine unveiled its sixth generation self-driving car, a battery-powered multipurpose vehicle costing RMB 204,600 ($28,316), a fraction of its original price. The RT6, a four-seated all-electric van boasting a spacious cabin, manufactured by partner Jiangling Motors, measures 4.8 meters in length with a wheelbase of roughly 2.8 meters. It is powered by a swappable battery pack and equipped with dozens of sensors, including cameras and lidar units, to allow driverless operations. French market intelligence company Yole Développement estimated in 2018 that robocars would have to be priced at no less than $200,000.

Baidu said it plans to deploy 1,000 such vehicles by year-end in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where it now operates a fully autonomous fleet with hundreds of robotaxis over 3,000 square kilometers (1,158 square miles). The Beijing-headquartered tech company, dubbed “China’s Google,” does not provide a full breakdown of its research and development costs, but chief executive Robin Li told Bloomberg in April 2021 that the firm spent RMB 20 billion on vehicle autonomy in 2020. Li added that the company was determined to invest hugely in self-driving technologies over the next 10-20 years. The latest move comes after news that the Chinese government would allow Tesla to test and operate robotaxis, an idea proposed by its boss Elon Musk during his visit to the country last month, according to a report by China Daily on May 9. [TechNode reporting]

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