Baidu uses Metaverse app to unveil its first self-driving commercial car

On June 8, Chinese multinational tech company Baidu unveiled Robo-01, an autonomous vehicle developed by Baidu’s electric car subsidiary Jidu Auto.

Although Baidu has been at the forefront of AI and self-driving car racing in China for years, this is the first commercial robot vehicle that will be launched by any Chinese technology company.

In April 2021, the tech giant rolled out the first batch of self-driving taxis on the streets of Beijing.

According to the company, Robo-01 does not need any human intervention to operate. At a price of 30,000 USD minimum, a model 90% similar to the prototype will arrive on 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 sci-fi movie.

Manufactured in the eastern Chinese city of Ningbo, the “robot car” aims to give Tesla’s Model Y, a consumer electric car costing around $60,000 in China, a run for its money.

The futuristic deck of the Robo-01 prototype is completed by a maxi-screen representing… Mars? Picture via Weibo

During the launch of the futuristic car, which aptly took place on Baidu’s metaverse app, Xirang, a virtual emcee introduced the car to a virtual audience.

Even the face of the campaign—and the car’s very first “owner” in the metaverse—is a digital person called Xi Jiajia. In the promotional video, Xi is seen relaxing in Robo-01 as he takes him on a free-wheeling journey through a hyper-tech city.

baidu smart car

Virtual influencer Xi Jiajia sits back and relaxes as Robo-01 speeds down a metaverse highway. Screenshot via YouTube

In addition to turning heads in the tech community, the news also sparked a lot of discussion on microblogging platform Weibo, where a hashtag for the unveiling of the car has over 40 million views. More than anything, netizens were mesmerized by Xi’s virtual testimony – a associated hashtag has over 11 million views.

Most Weibo users reacted positively to Baidu’s self-driving car and dropped comments like “I’m saving one!” and “I think this kind of smart car is really cool!”

baidu robot self-driving car

Robo-01 will be available to the public (at least those with deep pockets) in 2023. Image via Weibo

However, a handful of netizens have expressed concern over Robo-01’s self-driving feature.

“Are you sure this car will be ready for mass production? It’s too risky to rely so much on software to work,” reads a worried comment.

Cover image via Weibo

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