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 ok to persuade authorities that they’ll cast off human intervention altogether. As we speak, self-driving corporations from the US, Europe, and China are racing to carry the expertise to industrial 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 tutorial coaching associated to this job, However he has at all times beloved 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 lookup associated jobs on-line and apply. As we speak Liu, who has a buzz reduce, a heat smile, and a particular Beijing accent, “drives” a robotaxi 5 days every 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 automotive can’t go away the park, which was designated as a trial space for robotaxis, so his passengers are often 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 a couple of years. He has been via 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 an alternative 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 yr, Baidu revealed its new robotaxi mannequin whose steering wheel might 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 resolve to turn out to be a security operator for a self-driving taxi?

It was fairly a coincidence. Again after I was parking the automotive for an previous boss, I didn’t know what self-driving was and noticed that his automotive had a self-parking perform. I used to be tremendous, tremendous curious. It was actually fascinating once we peculiar folks strive it for the primary time. After that, I needed 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 take a look at. I believe the highway take a look at for self-driving [operators] is harder than the highway take a look at for getting a driver’s license. When you find yourself studying the best way to drive, it’s essential to have a look at your left, your proper, and the rearview mirror; however once we are taking the take a look at [for Baidu], it’s essential to take note of all of the instructions, in addition to what each automotive in entrance of or behind you is doing. Possibly it can out of the blue change lanes and influence you.

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