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A day within the lifetime of a Chinese language robotaxi driver


Robotaxi security operator is an occupation that exists solely in our time, the results of an evolving expertise that’s superior sufficient to eliminate a driver—more often than not, and in managed environments—however not adequate to persuade authorities that they’ll dispose of human intervention altogether. At present, self-driving firms from the US, Europe, and China are racing to deliver the expertise to business utility. Most of them, together with Apollo, the self-driving arm of Baidu, have began on-demand robotaxi trials on public roads however nonetheless have to function with numerous constraints.

With an affiliate diploma in human assets, Liu has no educational coaching associated to this job, However he has at all times cherished driving, and he acted as the driving force for his boss in a earlier position. When he heard in regards to the self-driving applied sciences, his curiosity pushed him to lookup associated jobs on-line and apply. At present Liu, who has a buzz minimize, a heat smile, and a particular Beijing accent, “drives” a robotaxi 5 days per week in Shougang Park, a 3.3-square-mile former energy plant in Beijing that has been redeveloped right into a vacationer attraction after serving as a sports activities venue for the 2022 Winter Olympics. His automobile can’t go away the park, which was designated as a trial space for robotaxis, so his passengers are normally staff who work there or vacationers visiting on weekends.

However Liu additionally wants to consider his subsequent steps, as his job will doubtless be eradicated inside just a few years. He has been by way of a number of robotaxi fashions and coverage adjustments in his 19-month profession as a security operator. In April 2021, Baidu acquired the license to place the protection operator within the entrance passenger seat as a substitute of the driving force’s seat (solely inside Shougang Park), and Liu subsequently switched his place and stated goodbye to the steering wheel. On July 21 this 12 months, Baidu revealed its new robotaxi mannequin whose steering wheel will be eliminated. It’s anticipated to be in operation in 2023.

MIT Expertise Assessment talked to Liu Yang in June. We requested him about how he got here to get this job, what his each day life is like, and what the longer term holds for an occupation designed to vanish quickly.

The interview has been translated from Chinese language and edited for readability.

How did you determine to grow to be a security operator for a self-driving taxi?

It was fairly a coincidence. Again once I was parking the automobile for an previous boss, I didn’t know what self-driving was and noticed that his automobile had a self-parking operate. I used to be tremendous, tremendous curious. It was actually fascinating once we bizarre individuals attempt it for the primary time. After that, I needed to know extra.

How lengthy have you ever been driving?

Twelve, 13 years.

Did you keep in mind what the interview course of was like?

I used to be extraordinarily nervous once I went for the interview. We had two rounds, a face-to-face interview and a highway check. I feel the highway check for self-driving [operators] is tougher than the highway check for getting a driver’s license. If you find yourself studying learn how to drive, you have to have a look at your left, your proper, and the rearview mirror; however once we are taking the check [for Baidu], you have to take note of all of the instructions, in addition to what each automobile in entrance of or behind you is doing. Possibly it’ll abruptly change lanes and influence you.

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