AutoX Releases Autonomous Robotaxi Video In Shenzhen, China
January 31st, 2021 by Vijay Govindan
AutoX has released a new video in English announcing that the company’s autonomous robotaxi service is open to the public in China. Thanks to friend of the site Lambda for sharing.
Shenzhen is the 5th largest city in China, with over 12 million people. The video is impressive, showing the AutoX Chrysler Pacifica navigating left turns, going around parked vehicles, overtaking on two-lane roads, and stopping for pedestrians and cyclists. This qualifies the vehicle as Level 4 autonomous. All of this with no driver in the front seat. The company was founded by CEO Dr. Jianxiong Xiao, affectionately known as Professor X. Dr Xiao has impressive credentials. According to his website:
“He received his Ph.D. from the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2013. And he was an Assistant Professor at Princeton University and the founding director of the Princeton Computer Vision and Robotics Labs from 2013 to 2016.”
Competition with Tesla & Waymo
The race is on for who rolls out a scalable version of a robotaxi first. Waymo is operating in the Greater Phoenix Area, Tesla is working on FSD Beta, Cruise is working in San Francisco, Zoox is working with Amazon. There are probably dozens more that we should mention or perhaps don’t even know about. The advantages that accrue to those who get a scalable Level 5 system working first are many, with billions of dollars worth of orders ready to flow into a solution that works. That doesn’t mean everyone else will give up, but we’ve been having a vigorous debate in the CleanTechnica chat about which systems are more scalable.
The feeling is that if Tesla gets it right, the company’s system scales the fastest and easiest. I don’t disagree. However, I think that the financial costs of robotaxis are so high that multiple, competing solutions will emerge, each best designed for a particular use case. We can have free-roaming autonomous solutions like Tesla’s that can take you between any point A and point B, whether that is within cities or outside of them. Other solutions, like Waymo’s and AutoX’s, will be geofenced, and that’s acceptable if you live in those areas. We might have dedicated point A to point B and back in the case of autonomous semi trucks. A separate autonomous solution with drones might occur in geofenced areas for package delivery. At this point in time, it’s too early to tell which technology will win in which use case. The field is ripe for innovation and growth. Who wins will come down to convenience and cost.
China, US, & Europe
If you look carefully in the video, Shenzhen has dedicated robotaxi embarking and disembarking zones. I haven’t seen anything like this in the USA or Europe. They are modifying human cities to make it easier for computer vision to drive.
AutoX has applied to have its technology tested on California roads. The USA and Europe need to get their act together, compete on autonomous vehicles, and encourage growth in a structured way. If they don’t advance quickly, they risk ceding the future to China. There is no time for partisan battles. Action must be taken. China, in more ways than one, has thrown down the gauntlet with recent events. There is hope a Biden administration will take concrete steps to promote electric vehicles. They need to be friendly to autonomous vehicle testing, too. There is a lot of work to be done to ensure America and Europe are competitive in the 2030s and beyond for jobs and businesses.
If you have other companies doing great things with autonomous vehicles, share them with us in the comments below.
Note: I hold shares in Tesla [NASDAQ:TSLA] and GM [NYSE:GM]. Nothing written here is investment advice. Please do your own due diligence before investing.
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