Baidu’s self-driving cars begin public test in Wuzhen, China

Internet giant Baidu is fast-forwarding its own self-driving car tests with a new public trial of autonomous vehicles, including cars supplied by Chinese automakers BYD, Chery and BAIC. The public tests opened for passengers on Tuesday, and have ferried around 200 people, as of today, across a 3.16 km (around 2 miles) stretch of road in tourist destination Wuzhen, which has been “mapped with centimetre accuracy,” according to Baidu.

The driverless vehicles are equipped with Velodyne LiDAR, video cameras, millimeter wave radar and a computer brain to make sense of all that data developed by Baidu in-house and installed in the trunk. The cars switch lanes, negotiate intersections, pass slower cars and even make U-turns, achieving a max top speed of 60 km per hour (37 mph) in accordance with the local speed limit.

There is a driver present in case of a need to take over control, but they don’t have their hands on the wheel throughout the trip unless necessary, according to Baidu. A display within the car shows passengers info, including traffic conditions and objects along the path.

Baidu’s targeting 2018 for the first production commercial vehicles on the road using this tech in a non-test capacity, with a broader rollout, including mass production, targeted for 2021. The company has made good progress on that road to date, given that it only began its autonomous driving business unit in earnest back in December 2015, though it had clearly been working on the project for some time since it also announced a successful test of automated driving tech in Beijing at that time.

Baidu also recently began testing its vehicles in California, after receiving a permit for autonomous testing from the state DMV earlier this year.