A total of 77 self-driving cars have driven more than 1 million kilometers on public roads in Beijing and search giant Baidu accounts for the lion’s share, regulators of the China’s capital city said in a report released on Monday.

Why it matters: Beijing’s self-driving report is the only one of its kind made public and recognized by the Chinese authorities, although self-driving tests are conducted in a number of cities including Shanghai and Guangzhou.

  • Meanwhile, after two years of testing, Beijing provided in the report the number of “disengagements” or human intervention events during self-driving car tests.

Details: Baidu’s autonomous vehicles have traveled more than 893,900 kilometers (555,500 miles) in the city over a two-year period as of December, Beijing’s Innovation Center for Mobility Intelligent (BICMI), the city’s official service agency for AV tests, said Monday in a report (in Chinese).

  • Baidu’s 45 cars drove around 140,000 kilometers in 2018. The company expanded the fleet size to 52 self-driving cars with more than 754,000 kilometers logged last year.
  • Guangzhou-based Pony.ai came second with around 121,300 kilometers of tests as of last year. The number of miles driven by its five vehicles in 2019 increased more than tenfold from just over 10,000 kilometers a year earlier.
  • In total, 77 vehicles from 13 companies drove more than 1.04 million kilometers (around 646,400 miles) on Beijing’s public roads as of last year. Japan’s biggest automaker Toyota jumped to the third place with its four cars travelling 11,129 kilometers in 2019. It conducted no tests the prior year.
  • Chinese auto and tech companies including Tencent, Didi Chuxing, and Nio were among the top 10, as well as Audi and Daimler. None of the companies beyond the top three exceeded 10,000 kilometers.
  • This year’s report revealed details about disengagements: only 14% were attributed to mechanical system or algorithm shortcomings in events such as broken traffic lights or reckless driving by other cars.
  • All other disengagements were for reasons such as replacing data-recording equipment, changes in planned routes, or for human break times, the report said.
  • A BICMI representative declined to reveal further disengagement details when contacted by TechNode on Tuesday.

Context: The Beijing government released China’s first municipal-level regulations for AV road tests in December 2017. It has opened a total of 503.7 kilometers of roads in four districts in the outskirts of the city as of 2019, more than triple the size a year earlier.

  • City officials in December began to allow passenger transport in self-driving cars, and Beijing-based Baidu was the first to receive permission from the city for its 40 licensed AVs. The actual size of the company’s self-driving car fleet is unknown, but it has driven 3 million kilometers in 23 Chinese cities as of December, according to Baidu’s Q4 earnings results.
  • However, Baidu is only piloting passenger transport in the central Chinese city of Changsha, and has not disclosed user base or daily rides details.
  • Meanwhile Toyota-backed Pony.ai said its fleet of 100 vehicles has traveled more than 1.5 million kilometers in four cities. Its ride-hailing pilot project surpassed 70,000 orders as of the end of last year.

Jill Shen

Jill Shen is Shanghai-based technology reporter. She covers Chinese mobility, autonomous vehicles, and electric cars. Connect with her via e-mail: jill.shen@technode.com or Twitter: @yushan_shen

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