By Zhao Zhanhui, Wang Zheng, People’s Daily
Guo Yu, an employee of a Beijing-based Internet company recently hailed an autonomous driving cab on Luobo Kuaipao, a robotaxi services platform under Chinese tech giant Baidu, while the man was enjoying his vacation in Shanghai. It took him only ten minutes from downloading the application to actually seeing his cab coming to pick him up.
“I just wanted to try out this new stuff since I heard the robotaxi platform has been officially launched in Shanghai,” Guo said.
Getting into the back seat and fastening the safe belt, the man confirmed his ride on a tablet hanging on the back of the front seat. Then the car drove off, and accelerated and even overtook other cars on the road. The ride, which stretched a couple of kilometers, was safe and steady. The safety driver didn’t take over during the entire trip.
Wei Dong, vice-president and chief safety operation officer of Baidu’s intelligent driving division, told People’s Daily that Shanghai was the fifth city where the company has launched autonomous driving taxi services. A total of 115,000 cab-hailing orders were placed on Luobo Kuaipao in the third quarter this year, and the total testing miles added up to 18 million kilometers.
Autonomous driving is a typical scenario where artificial intelligence (AI) empowers the transport sector, and new application scenarios are being constantly created in China thanks to the in-depth integration between AI and other sectors, including industry, healthcare, education, tourism and culture, urban management and finance.
China’s AI industry has achieved remarkable progress, said Xiao Yaqing, head of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. The country is currently leading the world in the innovative application of image and voice recognition technologies, and ranks first in the world in terms of the number of AI invention patent authorizations, he said, adding that the core AI industry has been expanding, and a complete industrial chain and application ecology have been developed.
The rapid development of AI in China is a miniature of the country’s huge efforts to develop intelligent industries and nurture smart economic forms. The recent Central Economic Work Conference called for faster digital transformation for the upgrading of traditional industries. In the first year of the 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-2025), China has been actively advancing digital industrialization and industrial digitalization. The prospering intelligent economy is constantly injecting strong impetus into the high-quality development of the country.
A work shop of China First Heavy Industries has tailored an industrial Internet platform that suits the heavy equipment manufacturing industry, using the new generation of information technologies such as 5G and cloud computing. Thirty-four machine tools in the workshop are connected to the industrial Internet platform that collects, analyzes, and presents all production data.
Liu Zhiguo, an employee of the company noted that industrial Internet is making traditional industries smart. According to him, the workshop has lowered 20 percent of production and management cost, shortened 30 percent of production cycle, and improved 10 percent of revenue thanks to the industrial Internet platform.
At present, China is home to over 100 influential industrial Internet platforms that connect 76 million sets of equipment. These platforms are driving the intelligentization and digitalization of traditional industries. As the end of August this year, the use of numerical control machines in key production processes of the key areas of the manufacturing sector reached 53.7 percent, and the digital R&D and design tool penetration hit 73.7 percent. These two figures were 30.1 and 25.4 percentage points higher than those in 2012.
Today, over 1.15 million, or more than 70 percent of the world’s 5G base stations, are in China, which makes the country the owner of the world’s largest and most technically advanced independent 5G networks. The urban areas of all prefectural level cities, over 97 percent of the counties, and 40 percent of the townships in the country are covered by 5G networks. China has 450 million 5G users, accounting for over 80 percent of the world’s total. The 5G technology, being rapidly popularized, is stimulating new demands, driving new consumption, and lighting up new lifestyles.