On June 8, Chinese multinational technology company Baidu unveiled Robo-01, a self-driving vehicle developed by Baidu’s electric car subsidiary Jidu Auto.
While Baidu has been at the forefront of the AI and self-driving cars race in China for years, this marks the first commercial robot vehicle to be launched by any Chinese tech company.
In April 2021, the tech giant deployed the first batch of self-driving taxis on the streets of Beijing.
According to the company, Robo-01 needs no human intervention to operate. Priced at a minimum of 30,000 USD, a model 90% similar to the prototype will hit the market in 2023.
With its angular shape, sleek design, and upward-sliding doors, Robo-01 wouldn’t look out of place in a video game or a sci-fi film.
Manufactured in the East China city of Ningbo, the ‘robot car’ aims to give Tesla’s Model Y, a consumer electric car priced around 60,000 USD in China, a run for its money.
The Robo-01 prototype’s futuristic deck is complete with a maxi-screen depicting… Mars? Image via Weibo
During the launch of the futuristic car, which aptly took place on Baidu’s metaverse app Xirang, a virtual master of ceremonies introduced the car to a virtual audience.
Even the face of the campaign — and the very first ‘owner’ of the car in the metaverse — is a digital person called Xi Jiajia. In the promotional video, Xi is seen kicking back in Robo-01 as it takes her on a freewheeling trip through a hyper-technological city.
Virtual influencer Xi Jiajia sits back and relaxes while Robo-01 speeds down a highway in the metaverse. Screengrab via YouTube
In addition to turning heads in the tech community, the news has also generated much discussion on the microblogging platform Weibo, where a hashtag for the car’s unveiling has gained almost 40 million views. More than anything, netizens have been mesmerized by Xi’s virtual testimonial — a related hashtag has more than 11 million views.
Most Weibo users have positively reacted to Baidu’s self-driving car and dropped comments like, “I am booking one!” and “I feel this kind of smart car is really cool!”
Robo-01 will be available to the public (at least those with steep pockets) in 2023. Image via Weibo
However, a handful of netizens have expressed trepidation over Robo-01’s self-driving function.
“You sure this car will be ready for mass production? It’s too risky to rely so much on software to function,” reads a concerned comment.
Cover image via Weibo
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