Chinese technology company Baidu announced on Monday that it can sell robotaxi rides without any human staff in the vehicles.

Baidu

BEIJING — Chinese technology company Baidu said Monday it has become the first robotaxi operator in China to obtain permits to sell rides without a human driver or staff inside the vehicles.

Local government approvals allow Baidu’s Apollo Go robotaxi business to eliminate the cost of human staff in some cases.

The initial scale of the permits is small: 10 robotaxis divided between two suburban areas of Wuhan and Chongqing, two major Chinese cities.

In April, Baidu and rival robotaxi operator Pony.ai received approval from a district in suburban Beijing to operate robotaxis without a human driver. But the Chinese capital still needs human staff to sit in the robotaxi with passengers.

Municipal authorities across China have issued an increasing number of permits over the past year that allow robotaxi companies to operate and charge fares in selected areas.

In the United States, Alphabet’s Waymo and Cruise, a subsidiary of General Motors, can already operate public robotaxis without human personnel in the vehicles. Laws for testing robotaxis and charging drivers vary by city and state.

Baidu claimed to have received more than one million orders for robotaxi rides. In the first three months of the year, the company said it operated 196,000 rides. Baidu is expected to release its second-quarter results on August 30.