Hangzhou - Visitors to Wuzhen in east China may soon be able to get a lift between their hotel and tourist spots in the Venice-like town, after Baidu signed a deal with the local tourism agency to develop such services.
Baidu and Wuzhen Tourism Co. will research which routes could be served by driverless cars and details like costs and how many vehicles will be needed before nailing down a more exact plan, said Wang Jin, Baidu's senior vice president and head of its autonomous driving division.
Wang did not say when the service might be launched. Despite being a historic town dating back 1 300 years, Wuzhen, in Zhejiang Province, is also known as a technological pioneer after its IT infrastructure was upgraded over the past few years.
It became the permanent host venue for China's World Internet Conference (WIC) in 2014.
Baidu debuted its driverless car at the second WIC in Wuzhen last year and generated a lot of excitement when it successfully completed a rigorous road test in Beijing in December.
The company said earlier this year that it would choose 10 urban locations to try out driverless cars in 2016. Wuzhen is the third after east China's Wuhu City and an automobile industrial park in Shanghai.
The driverless car's core operating system is called Baidu Brain, artificial intelligence that includes high-precision electronic mapping, positioning, sensing and decision-making and control systems thanks to Baidu's mining of big data.
Baidu is aiming to commercialise the driverless technology by 2018 and to achieve mass production of the cars by 2020.
Hinting at the kind of services that could be offered in Wuzhen, Wang said Baidu was open to working with regulators and other players in the automotive industry chain, and the cost of hiring a driverless car could drop below that of hiring a driver in the foreseeable future.