Baidu Gets Green Light for Commercial Robotaxis in Beijing. It’s Good for the Stock.

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The Baidu Apollo car is displayed during the annual Baidu World Technology Conference in Beijing on November 1, 2018.

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Fred Dufour / AFP via Getty Images

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Chinese tech titan Baidu (ticker: BIDU) on Thursday received approval to operate commercial driverless robotic taxi services in a designated area in Beijing, sending stocks higher in Hong Kong trading.

Toyota (7203.Japan)-backed self-driving start-up Pony.ai Inc. was also granted a license, after a trial period, in regulatory approval for the first time for driverless taxis paid for by Chinese authorities.

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Baidu’s Apollo Go service, known as Luobo Kuipao in China, has been given the authority to pick up and drop paying passengers over an area of ​​60 square kilometers in the Beijing Economic and Technological Development Zone. The company’s fleet of 67 vehicles will include over 600 pickup and drop-off points in commercial and residential areas, Baidu said.

Baidu wants to roll out its driverless taxi service in 100 cities by the end of the decade, and Thursday’s approval will be seen as a significant step in that process. This was certainly noticed by investors as the Hong Kong-listed stock (9888:HONGKONG) climbed 4.5%.

When US markets reopen after the Thanksgiving holiday on Friday, Baidu’s US-listed stock may be worth a look. The stock is down 30% year-on-year, largely due to broader China action, which has particularly affected tech stocks.

It fell 10% over the past week, during which the company reported third-quarter earnings. Those earnings may have beat expectations for both profit and revenue, but Baidu warned. Ad sales will be affected from regulatory action in the coming quarters.

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