Baidu’s Apollo Go robotaxi, on the right, operates in the Yizhuang suburban district of Beijing alongside Pony.ai’s version. The two vehicles are pictured here in November 2021 shortly after Beijing allowed the companies to charge fares.
Vcg | Visual China Group | Getty Images
BEIJING — China’s capital city is taking swift steps to allow robotaxi businesses to grow.
As of Tuesday, the suburban Beijing city district of Yizhuang is officially letting local robotaxi operators — primarily Baidu and startup Pony.ai — charge fares for fully autonomous taxis, with no human staff inside.
That fully eliminates the cost of a driver. Previously, commercial public-facing robotaxis were required to have an employee to sit inside with the passenger. Yizhuang district is about half an hour’s drive from downtown Beijing and is home to corporations such as JD.com.
More approvals for robotaxi operations in the city are coming, said Ning Zhang, vice president at Pony.ai and head of its Beijing research …