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China's Baidu unveils low-cost Apollo Moon robotaxi

Developed with BAIC, EV costs just a third of conventional models

It costs $75,000 to build an Apollo Moon, just a third of what is required to produce an average Level 4 autonomous vehicle.

BEIJING -- Baidu, the Chinese technology company best known for its search engine, on Thursday unveiled an autonomous electric vehicle developed with carmaker BAIC Group that it plans to deploy in a ride-hailing fleet of 1,000 self-driving cars in three years.

Dubbed Apollo Moon, the 5G-ready robotaxi is based on BAIC's luxury EV brand Arcfox and equipped with autonomous driving technology from Baidu's business unit Apollo.

One big advantage is Apollo Moon's manufacturing cost of 480,000 yuan ($75,000), or just a third of what is required to produce an average Level 4 autonomous vehicle -- a categorization for those that can operate without human input under certain conditions. The lower cost will facilitate greater commercialization.

A ride-hailing service using Apollo Moon will be introduced in big cities over the next three years. Baidu's Apollo has begun to release its taxis with no one behind the wheel in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chongqing and elsewhere.

Baidu has collaborated with multinational automakers and chipmakers in the Apollo project, formed in 2017, and has been partnering with state-owned BAIC since the beginning. Baidu also has plans to launch an EV brand with the help of private-sector carmaker Zhejiang Geely Holding Group.

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