The Apollo RT6 will be used for autonomous ride-hailing next year.
The automotive landscape in China has made huge strides over the last few years. Once known in the West for little more than its blatant copycat car designs, the nation has since shown us that it is capable of penning original, appealingly styled vehicles and has even taken the fight to Tesla in the EV sphere. The latest vehicle from China is a showcase of cutting-edge technology. Called the Apollo RT6 from leading AI company and search giant Baidu, this is an all-electric, production-ready vehicle. Inside, there is a detachable steering wheel as the RT6 features Baidu's Level 4 autonomous driving system.
Level 3 driving tech has only recently started finding its way into modern vehicles like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Level 4 takes things much further; at that stage, the car can perform all driving tasks on its own under specific conditions, but human override is still available.
The Apollo RT6 comes with 38 sensors including 12 cameras and eight LiDARs. These sensors enable long-range detection on all sides of the vehicle, and Baidu has tested the safety and reliability of the system over more than 20 million test miles. The intention is for the RT6 to be used for Baidu's Apollo Go, an autonomous ride-hailing service. In the US, self-driving taxis haven't exactly gone according to plan, but Baidu will be hoping for more success with the RT6.
Designed from the ground up for self-driving capability, the RT6's expansive cabin means that everything from desktops to gaming consoles, extra seating, and even vending machines can be installed.
At 187.4 inches in length, it's nearly as long as a new Kia Sorento. The self-driving EV has over 41 inches of rear legroom, which is ample, along with a flat floor. Electric sliding doors make ingress and egress even simpler. Outside, the Apollo RT6 has a clean, modern look. The headlights are completely flush with the body, as they are on the new Land Rover Range Rover.
Considering how advanced it is, the Apollo RT6 is surprisingly affordable. It costs the equivalent of around $37,000, which is as much as you'll pay for a high-spec Nissan Leaf in the USA.
"This massive cost reduction will enable us to deploy tens of thousands of AVs across China. We are moving towards a future where taking a robotaxi will be half the cost of taking a taxi today," said Robin Li, Co-founder and CEO of Baidu, at Baidu World 2022, the company's flagship technology conference.