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China's Baidu wins first permits for fully driverless 'robotaxis'

Licenses mark first time company can offer service with no safety driver inside

One of Baidu's driverless taxis in Wuhan. Chinese carmakers and tech companies have been gearing up to compete globally in the autonomous driving market. (Photo courtesy of Baidu) 

SHANGHAI -- China's Baidu said Monday that it has secured permits to put fully driverless taxis on the road in two major cities for the first time, in what it called a "turning point" for autonomous driving.

The announcement comes a few weeks after the search engine group released a new generation of self-driving vehicles with production costs roughly half those of its predecessor -- seen as key for widespread commercialization.

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