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Mass production of self-driving bus in China.

SOFTBANK

One of China’s biggest technology companies has declared it has begun mass production of a self-driving bus. Baidu made the announcement after building its 100th Apolong vehicle at its factory in the country’s south-eastern Fujian province.

It said the vehicles would initially be put to commercial use within Chinese cities but added it was also targeting foreign markets.

The Apolong bus can seat up to 14 people, and has been developed with a local vehicle manufacturer. It has no driver’s seat, steering wheel or pedals. It runs on electric power and can travel up to 100km (62 miles) after a two-hour charge, at up to 70km/h.

Baidu envisages it being used for “last-mile” drop-offs within enclosed areas, such as airports and tourist sites. The company said partners would soon put it to use in Beijing, Shenzhen, Wuhan and other Chinese cities. It added that a deal with Japan’s Softbank Group could also bring the vehicle to Tokyo’s roads.

In a separate Japanese-language press release, Softbank said it intended to start using 10 Apolongs for “demonstration tests” within Japan by early 2019.

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