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Self-drive buses go into mass production

Baidu's self-driving buses have entered "mass production".

The Chinese technology company has declared it has officially begun mass producing a range of self-driving buses - known as Apolong buses - which are set to be put to commercial use within Chinese cities before eventually getting a foreign roll out in the future.

Baidu made the announcement after building its 100th Apolong vehicle at its factory in the country's south-eastern Fujian province, which came after the company's chief executive Robin Li had detailed the plans at the annual artificial intelligence developer conference in Beijing.

He said: "2018 marks the first year of commercialisation for autonomous driving. In the past, China exported cheap commodities to the world. In the future, China will export AI technology to the world."

The Apolong bus can seat up to 14 people, and runs on electric power which can see it travel up to 62 miles after just a two-hour charge.

Baidu envisages it being used for "last-mile" drop-offs within enclosed areas, such as airports and tourist sites.

Meanwhile, Baidu isn't the only company working on self-driving buses either, as France's Easymile, Australia's Intellibus and South Korea's KT, have all developed autonomous buses of their own.

Professor Natasha Merat, from the University of Leeds' Institute for Transport Studies, even believes self-drive buses could be more easily accepted than cars, as they can be more easily monitored by authorities.

She said: "Any vehicle that can be deployed in a well-organised and controlled environment and that can be controlled and regulated by authorities ... is more likely to be the starter for this sort of technology, than ones which will be provided to [a single] member of the general public, who would not necessarily be closely monitored."

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