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A robotaxi, also known as robot taxi, robo-taxi, self-driving taxi or driverless taxi, is an autonomous car (SAE automation level 4 or 5) operated for a ridesharing company.

Some studies have hypothesized that robotaxis operated in an autonomous mobility on demand (AMoD) service could be one of the most rapidly adopted applications of autonomous cars at scale and a major mobility solution, especially in urban areas.[1] Moreover, they could have a very positive impact on road safety, traffic congestion and parking.[2][3][4][5][6] Robotaxis could also reduce pollution and energy consumption, since these services will most probably use electric cars[7] and for most of the rides, less vehicle size and range is necessary compared to individually owned vehicles.[8] The expected reduction in number of vehicles means less embodied energy;[9] however energy consumption for redistribution of empty vehicles must be taken into account.[10] Robotaxis would reduce operating costs by eliminating the need for a human driver, which might make it an affordable form of transportation and increase the popularity of transportation-as-a-service (TaaS) as opposed to individual car ownership.[11][12][13][14] Such developments could lead to job destruction[15][16] and new challenges concerning operator liabilities.[17] In 2023, some robotaxis caused congestion when they blocked roads due to lost cellular connectivity, and others failed to properly yield to emergency vehicles.[18] As of 2023 there has been only one fatality associated with a robotaxi, a pedestrian who was hit by an Uber test vehicle in 2018.

Predictions of the widespread and rapid introduction of robotaxis – by as early as 2018 – have not been realized. There are a number of trials underway in cities around the world, some of which are open to the public and generate revenue. However, as of 2021, questions have been raised as to whether the progress of self-driving technology has stalled and whether issues of social acceptance, cybersecurity and cost have been addressed.[19][20]


Vehicle costs[edit]

So far all the trials have involved specially modified passenger cars with space for two or four passengers sitting in the back seats behind a partition. LIDAR, cameras and other sensors have been used on all vehicles. The cost of early vehicles was estimated in 2020 at up to US$400,000 due to custom manufacture and specialized sensors.[21] However, the prices of some components such as LIDAR have fallen significantly.[22] In January 2021, Waymo stated its costs were approximately $180,000 per vehicle, and its operating cost at $0.30 per mile (~$0.19 per km), well below Uber and Lyft, but this excludes the cost of fleet technicians and customer support.[23] Baidu announced in June 2021 it would start producing robotaxis for 500,000 yuan ($77,665) each.[24] Tesla has discussed a sub-$25,000 Tesla Robotaxi, and as of 2023 is designing an assembly line that will accommodate the vehicle.[25]

Passenger tests[edit]

Several companies are testing robotaxi services, especially in the United States and in China. All operate only in a geo-fenced area. Service areas for robotaxis, also known as the Objective Design Domain (ODD), are specially designated zones where robotaxis can safely provide service.[26] As of 2024, Baidu's Apollo Go had carried the most passengers, over 6 million by April 2024. Other providers in China include AutoX, DiDi, Pony.ai, WeRide, all operating in 10 or more cities. In the US, Waymo is the most prominent provider, operating in San Francisco, Phoenix, and Los Angeles. A 2024 study of Waymo indicated an 85% reduction in injury crashes per mile driven.[27]

Separate to these efforts have been trials of larger shared autonomous vehicles on fixed routes with designated stops, able to carry between 6 and 10 passengers. These shuttle buses operate at low speeds.


In February 2018 Arizona granted Waymo a Transportation Network Company permit.[28]

In February 2022 the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) issued Drivered Deployment permits to Cruise and Waymo to allow passenger service in autonomous vehicles with a safety driver present in the vehicle. These carriers must hold a valid California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Deployment permit and meet the requirements of the CPUC Drivered Deployment program.[29] In June 2022, Cruise received approval to operate a commercial robotaxi service in San Francisco.[30][31]

In April 2022, China gave Baidu and Pony.ai its first permits to deploy robotaxis without safety drivers on open roads within a 23 square mile area in the Beijing Economic-Technological Development Area.[32][33]

In August 2023, the CPUC approved granting additional operating authority for Cruise LLC and Waymo LLC to conduct commercial passenger service using vehicles without safety drivers in San Francisco.[34] The approval includes the ability for both companies to charge fares for rides at any time of day.[34]


First trials[edit]

In August 2016, MIT spinoff NuTonomy was the first company to make robotaxis available to the public, starting to offer rides with a fleet of 6 modified Renault Zoes and Mitsubishi i-MiEVs in a limited area in Singapore.[35] NuTonomy later signed three significant partnerships to develop its robotaxi service: with Grab, Uber’s rival in Southeast Asia, with Groupe PSA, which is supposed to provide the company with Peugeot 3008 SUVs and the last one with Lyft to launch a robotaxi service in Boston.[36][37][38][39]

In August 2017, Cruise Automation, a self-driving startup acquired by General Motors in 2016, launched the beta version of a robotaxi service for its employees in San Francisco using a fleet of 46 Chevrolet Bolt EVs.[40][41]

Testing and revenue service timeline[edit]

Trials listed have a safety driver unless otherwise indicated. The commencement of a trial does not mean it is still active.

  • August 2016 - NuTonomy launched its autonomous taxi service using a fleet of 6 modified Renault Zoes and Mitsubishi i-MiEVs in Singapore
  • September 2016 - Uber started allowing a select group of users in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to order robotaxis from a fleet of 14 vehicles. Two Uber engineers were always in the front seats of each vehicle.
  • March 2017 - An Uber self-driving car was hit and flipped on its side by another vehicle that failed to yield. In October 2017, Uber started using only one test driver.
  • April 2017 - Waymo started a large scale robotaxi tests in a geo-fenced suburb of Phoenix, Arizona with a driver monitoring each vehicle. The service area was about 100 square miles (260 km2).[42] In November 2017 some testing without drivers began. Commercial operations began in November 2019.
  • August 2017 - Cruise Automation launched the beta version robotaxi service for 250 employees (10% of its staff) in San Francisco using a fleet of 46 vehicles.
  • March 2018 - A woman attempting to cross a street in Tempe, Arizona at night was struck and killed by an Uber vehicle while the onboard safety driver was watching videos. Uber later restarted testing, but only during daylight hours and at slower speeds.
  • August 2018 - Yandex began a trial with two vehicles in Innopolis, Russia[43][44]
  • December 2018 - Waymo started self-driving taxi service, dubbed Waymo One, in Arizona for paying customers.[45]
  • April 2019 - Pony.ai launched a pilot system covering 50 km2 (19 sq mi) in Guangzhou, China for employees and invited affiliated, serving pre-defined pickup points.[46]
  • November 2019 - WeRide RoboTaxi began a pilot service with 20 vehicles in Guangzhou and Huangpu over an area of 144.65 km2 (55.85 sq mi)[47][48]
  • November 2019 - Pony.ai started a three-month trial in Irvine, California with 10 cars and stops for pickup and drop off.[49]
  • April 2020 - Baidu opened its trial of 45 vehicles in Changsha, China to public users for free trips, serving 100 designated spots on a set 135 km (84 mi) network. Services operation from 9:20am to 4:40pm with a safety-driver and a "navigator", allowing space for two passengers in the back.[50]
  • June 2020 - DiDi robotaxi service begins operation in Shanghai in an area that covers Shanghai's Automobile Exhibition Center, the local business districts, subway stations and hotels in the downtown area.[51]
  • August 2020. Baidu began offering free trips, with app bookings, on its trial in Cangzhou, China which serves 55 designated spots over pre-defined routes.[52]
  • December 2020. AutoX (which is backed by Alibaba Group) launched a non-public trial of driverless robotaxis in Shenzhen with 25 vehicles.[53] The service was then opened to the public in January 2021.[54][55]
  • February 2021 - Waymo One began limited robotaxi service in a number of suburbs of San Francisco for a selection of its own employees. In August 2021 the public was invited to apply to use service, with places limited. A safety driver is present in each vehicles. The number of vehicles involved has not been disclosed.[56]
  • May 2021 - Baidu commences a commercial robotaxi service with ten Apollo Go vehicles in a 3 km2 (1.2 sq mi) area with eight pickup and drop-off stops, in Shougang Park in western Beijing[57]
  • July 2021 - Baidu opened a pilot program to the public in Guangzhou with a fleet of 30 sedans serving 60 sq mi (160 km2) in the Huangpu district.[58] 200 designated spots are served between 9:30am and 11pm every day.[59]
  • July 2021 - DeepRoute.ai began a free-of-charge trial with 20 vehicles in downtown Shenzhen serving 100 pickup and dropoff locations.[60]
  • February 2022 - Cruise opened up its driverless cars in San Francisco to the public.[61]
  • February 2023 - Zoox, the self-driving startup owned by Amazon, carried passengers in its robotaxi for the first time in Foster City, California.[62]
  • August 2023 - Waymo and Cruise were authorized by the CPUC to collect fares for driverless rides in San Francisco.
  • In December 2023, China finalized regulations on commercial robotaxi operation. Roboshuttles or robotrucks are required to maintain in-car drivers. Robotaxis can use remote operators. The robotaxi:remote operator ratio cannot exceed 3:1. Operators must be certified. Accident reporting rules specify required data.[63]
  • In 2024, Baidu Apollo, AutoX, Pony.ai, Didi and WeRide each operated in 10 to 25 cities, with fleets hundreds of robotaxis. As of April, 2024, Baidu Apollo had traveled over 100,000,000 km (62,000,000 mi) without a major accident. [63]
  • July 2024 - Beijing issued guidelines requiring robotaxis to have safety drivers or remote monitoring amid backlash from taxi drivers and residents. In Wuhan, Baidu's Apollo Go robotaxis faced concerns over job losses and traffic, but their popularity boosted Baidu's shares.[64][65]

Notable commercial ventures[edit]

Uber Advanced Technology Group[edit]

Uber began development of self-driving vehicles in early 2015. In September 2016, the company started a trial allowing a select group of users of its ride-hailing service in Pittsburgh to order robotaxis from a fleet of 14 modified Ford Fusions.[66] The test extended to San Francisco with modified Volvo XC90s before being relocated to Tempe, Arizona in February 2017.[67][68]

In March 2017, one of Uber's robotaxis crashed in self-driving mode in Arizona, which led the company to suspend its tests before resuming them a few days later.[69][70] In March 2018, Uber paused self-driving vehicle testing after the death of Elaine Herzberg in Tempe, Arizona, a pedestrian struck by an Uber vehicle while attempting to cross the street, while the onboard engineer was watching videos.[71] Uber settled with the victim's family.[72][71]

In January 2021, Uber sold its self driving division, Advanced Technologies Group (ATG), to Aurora Innovation for $4 billion while also investing $400 million into Aurora for a 26% ownership stake.[73][74]


In early 2017, Waymo, the Google self-driving car project which became an independent company in 2016, started a large public robotaxi test in Phoenix using 100 and then 500 more Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans provided by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles as part of a partnership between the two companies.[75][76][77] Waymo also signed a deal with Lyft to collaborate on self-driving cars in May 2017.[78] In November 2017, Waymo revealed it had begun to operate some of its automated vehicles in Arizona without a safety driver behind the wheel.[79] And in December 2018, Waymo started self-driving taxi service, dubbed Waymo One, in Arizona for paying customers.[45] By November 2019, the service was operating autonomous vehicles without a safety backup driver.[80][81] The autonomous taxi service was operating in San Francisco as of 2021.[82] In December 2022, the company applied for a permit to operating self-driving taxi rides in California without a human operator present as backup.[83]

GM Cruise[edit]

In January 2020, GM subsidiary Cruise exhibited the Cruise Origin, a Level 4–5 driverless vehicle,[84] intended to be used for a ride hailing service.[85]

In February 2022, Cruise started driverless taxi service in San Francisco.[61][86] Also in February 2022, Cruise petitioned U.S. regulators (NHTSA) for permission to build and deploy a self-driving vehicle without human controls.[87] As of April 2022, the petition is pending.[88]

In April 2022, their partner Honda unveiled its Level 4 mobility service partners to roll out in central Tokyo in the mid-2020s using the Cruise Origin.[89]

Unfortunately, there are signs that autonomously operated Cruise vehicles may interfere with emergency vehicles,[90] and has been culpable of at least one collision with a fire truck.[91]

On 2 October 2023, a Cruise vehicle operating autonomously (without driver supervision) collided with a pedestrian. Instead of stopping immediately, the vehicle misidentified the collision mechanics and presumed it was crashed into from the side. Consequently, the vehicle proceeded to drag the pedestrian under the car for 20 ft (6.1 m) until it came to a stop on the side of the road. As both the response of the vehicle was deemed unacceptable and the company appears to have withheld details of the crash from regulators, California regulators revoked the license to operate these cars. Cruise recalled all of its 950 vehicles in November 2023.[90][92]

These decisions were enacted in parallel with the exposure of safety risks, identified earlier within the Cruise company, regarding proper vehicle behavior around children and around construction sites.[93]


Since 2019, Tesla's CEO Elon Musk has incorrectly predicted each year that Tesla would have robotaxis on the road within 1 to 2 years.[94] He is expected to announce the plans for Tesla's robotaxi on 8 August 2024.[94]

Other developments[edit]

Many automakers announced their plans in 2015–2018 to develop robotaxis before 2025 and specific partnerships have been signed between automakers, technology providers and service operators, including:

See also[edit]


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