Baidu unveils autonomous vehicle without steering wheel

 Taking a robotaxi will be half the cost of taking a taxi today

China’s search engine giant Baidu Inc on Thursday unveiled its new autonomous vehicle (AV) with a detachable steering wheel, with plans to put it to use for its robotaxi service in China next year.

Cost per unit will drop to 250,000 yuan ($37,031.55) for the new model, compared with 480,000 yuan for the previous generation, Baidu said in a statement.

“This massive cost reduction will enable us to deploy tens of thousands of AVs across China,” Baidu’s chief executive Robin Li said at the Baidu World conference. “We are moving towards a future where taking a robotaxi will be half the cost of taking a taxi today.”

China’s Baidu jumps into the metaverse realm

XiRang contains tourist sites and venues for virtual meetings

Leading Chinese search provider Baidu opened its self-developed metaverse to the public Monday, allowing users to interact and visit virtual locations through avatars.

People can access Baidu’s metaverse, named XiRang, through an app. The platform can support up to 100,000 users at a time. XiRang is home to a “Creator City” containing buildings that can host meetings and other events. Other locations recreate attractions such as China’s Shaolin Temple.

The metaverse can be accessed using smartphones and personal computers. Individuals also can explore XiRang using virtual reality headsets made by Chinese manufacturer Pico. A Baidu service account is needed to enter XiRang. A user can enter the metaverse after registering personal information on the app and creating an avatar. The avatar can be moved using a controller displayed on the device screen. A user can converse with another user by approaching an avatar, pointing the device to the character and talking to it.