The Chinese internet services company Baidu and their rival Pony.ai are the first companies in China to be granted permits for driverless taxis. The permission allows them to offer rides without a safety driver behind the wheel. China has ambitions to lead autonomous driving technology globally but lags behind the U.S. in introducing such services.

It is a significant step in the country’s pursuit of driverless technology. Both companies will be able to provide driverless ride-hailing services to the public in Beijing.

Baidu and Pony.ai’s first fleet of autonomous cars began operating in suburban Beijing on April 28. The new permits still require a safety supervisor to be seated in the front passenger seat.

Beijing has set a goal for 70% of cars sold in 2030 to have Level 2 and Level 3 self-driving technology, including autonomous features.

Baidu’s Apollo Go autonomous taxi services operate in nine cities across China, including Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou. The company said it had accumulated over 27 million kilometers (16 million miles) of road testing with no traffic accidents over the past nine years.

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