With a detachable steering wheel design, Apollo RT6 unlocks space for a more versatile in-car experience

Baidu has unveiled the Apollo RT6, a fully autonomous vehicle designed for use as a robotaxi in complex urban environments. Developed at a per unit cost of RMB 250,000 (around $37,000), Baidu aims to utilize the all-electric RT6 to accelerate AV deployment at scale while encouraging the adoption of autonomous vehicles in the future.

In differentiating the user experience of the Apollo RT6 against previous generations, Baidu equipped it with a number of user-centric features. Inside the vehicle, for example, is a detachable steering wheel that provides additional space through which extra seating, vending machines, desktops, or gaming consoles can be installed.

The core experience of the Apollo RT6 is rooted in its autonomous driving capabilities. Here, an advanced L4 system is powered by a pair of CPUs that allow it to process up to 1200 trillion operations per second. This power is used to process data sent from the vehicle’s suite of 38 sensors, including 8 LiDARs and 12 cameras, which work to obtain accurate, long-range detection around the vehicle.

While these sensors allow the RT6 to drive autonomously, a supervisor will be present at all times inside the vehicle in the event that its operations need to be handed back to a human driver. When testing the RT6, Baidu collected large datasets – amounting to a total test mileage of more than 20 million miles (32 million kilometers) – to ensure it operated safely and reliably at launch.

Upon its rollout, the Apollo RT6 will be the first vehicle built on Xinghe, Baidu’s dedicated E/E architecture for fully autonomous driving. This rollout will commence in 2023, when the AV begins its robotaxi operations in China on Apollo Go – the company’s autonomous ride-hailing service. From then, it expects its fleet of RT6 vehicles to grow from 10,000 units to 100,000 units in the next few years. This growing fleet will then work to support Apollo Go’s goal to expand its service operations to 100 cities before 2030.