A self-driving car in China crashes into a person crossing the road against a traffic light, highlighting a challenge for AI


BEIJING (AP) — A self-driving taxi in China has hit a pedestrian, prompting people on social media to side with the automaker after the person reportedly ran against a traffic light.

The vehicle’s operator, Chinese tech giant Baidu, said in a statement to Chinese media that the car started moving when the light turned green and had minor contact with the pedestrian. The person was taken to a hospital where examination found no visible external injuries, Baidu said.

Sunday’s incident in the city of Wuhan highlights the challenge of autonomous driving in complex situations, Chinese financial news outlet Yicai reported. It cited an expert as saying the technology could have limitations in dealing with unconventional behavior, such as other vehicles or pedestrians violating traffic rules.

Images posted online show a person sitting on the street in front of the self-driving car with its roof sensors. Comments on social media were largely supportive of Baidu, suggesting the pedestrian had broken the law, the English-language Shanghai Daily reported on X.

Baidu, a Beijing-based search engine and artificial intelligence company, is a leader in the development of autonomous driving in China. Its largest “robotaxi” operation, with a fleet of 300 cars, is in Wuhan, a major city in central China that had the world’s first major outbreak of COVID-19 in early 2020.

Apollo goes, as the ride-hailing service is known, also operates in limited parts of three other Chinese cities: Beijing, Shenzhen and Chongqing. The company launched the sixth generation of its self-driving taxi in May and said it had slashed the unit cost by more than half to less than $30,000.

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