By Yifan Wang
Chinese tech giant Baidu Inc. and Toyota Motor Corp.-backed startup Pony.ai Inc. have received China's first-ever regulatory go-ahead to begin charging consumers for driverless ride-hailing services on open roads.
The approval, granted by the head office of the Beijing High-level Automated Driving Demonstration Area, comes as global tech giants such as Alphabet Inc. and auto makers including General Motors Co. are rushing to compete in the red-hot "robotaxi" market.
With the new permit, Baidu and Pony.ai will be able to charge fees for robotaxi services offered to the public in a 60-square-kilometer designated area in southern Beijing.
Baidu said its commercial robotaxi service, known as Apollo Go, will include more than 600 pick-up and drop-off points in the Beijing district and will operate daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Pony.ai said it has set up about 200 stations and will offer services from 8:30 a.m. to 10.30 p.m.
Before this milestone toward commercialization, both companies were testing driverless taxi services for free across China.
Baidu shares jumped in Hong Kong after news of the commercial authorization. The stock was recently 4.8% higher at 152.90 Hong Kong dollars.
Write to Yifan Wang at firstname.lastname@example.org
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