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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 know-how that’s superior sufficient to do away with a driver—more often than not, and in managed environments—however not ok to persuade authorities that they’ll put off human intervention altogether. At the moment, self-driving corporations from the US, Europe, and China are racing to deliver the know-how to industrial software. Most of them, together with Apollo, the self-driving arm of Baidu, have began on-demand robotaxi trials on public roads however nonetheless must function with numerous constraints.

With an affiliate diploma in human sources, Liu has no tutorial 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 concerning the self-driving applied sciences, his curiosity pushed him to search for associated jobs on-line and apply. At the moment 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 often workers 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 a couple of years. He has been by a number of robotaxi fashions and coverage modifications in his 19-month profession as a security operator. In April 2021, Baidu acquired the license to place the security 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 mentioned goodbye to the steering wheel. On July 21 this 12 months, Baidu revealed its new robotaxi mannequin whose steering wheel could be eliminated. It’s anticipated to be in operation in 2023.

MIT Expertise Evaluate talked to Liu Yang in June. We requested him about how he got here to get this job, what his day by 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 turn into a security operator for a self-driving taxi?

It was fairly a coincidence. Again after 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 attention-grabbing after we peculiar individuals attempt it for the primary time. After that, I wished to know extra.

How lengthy have you ever been driving?

Twelve, 13 years.

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

I used to be extraordinarily nervous after 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. When you find yourself studying learn how to drive, that you must have a look at your left, your proper, and the rearview mirror; however after we are taking the check [for Baidu], that you must take note of all of the instructions, in addition to what each automobile in entrance of or behind you is doing. Perhaps it is going to out of the blue change lanes and impression you.

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