Baidu chief executive Robin Li has revealed his vision for the future of mobility – a vehicle he describes as more robot than car . Unveiling a prototype “robocar” at the Baidu World 2021 conference on Wednesday, the co-founder of the search engine and artificial intelligent (AI) behemoth said an ideal transport tool in his mind would be a robot that bears little resemblance to the cars clogging the roads today. “In the future, a car will be equivalent to a robot,” Li said at the conference. Baidu took eight years to develop the robocar – which does not have a name yet – that premiered at the event. The two-seat vehicle, which has no steering wheel or pedals , has two retractable doors, a large curved intelligent display and a control pad. Li said its interior features zero-gravity seats, voice and facial recognition, and advanced AI technology that enables it to analyse and make predictive suggestions to passengers. Zero-gravity seats work by positioning the driver or passenger’s body to make them feel weightless, minimising the effects of gravity. The car meets the level 5 (L5) autonomous driving standard, defined as having the ability to handle itself in all circumstances without any human intervention. Baidu became a new entrant to the intelligent electric vehicle (EV) market when it set up Jidu Auto , a venture with leading mainland carmaker Geely, in January, with the aim of launching a first production model in 2024. It joined the fray against a raft of rivals including Tesla, leading Chinese EV start-ups and conventional vehicle assemblers to battle for supremacy in the future of mobility, in which autonomous driving is the holy grail. The next generation of vehicles is widely expected to use digital technologies such as voice control and internet of things (IoT) features to cater to people’s needs for things like entertainment and conferencing. Also on Wednesday, Xpeng, one of Tesla’s main rivals in China, kicked off the second phase of expansion of its plant in Zhaoqing, Guangdong province, a move aimed at doubling its annual production capacity to 200,000 units. Xpeng is currently manufacturing P7 sedans fitted with the “navigation guided pilot” driver assistance system at the Zhaoqing manufacturing base. Last month, Li said he wanted to shorten the development time of the new model that is in the pipeline to showcase Baidu’s latest AI technologies. “Baidu has an edge in developing self-driving cars [because of] its Apollo platform,” said Peter Chen, an engineer with car components company ZF TRW in Shanghai. “The industry is keen to know to what extent its models can turn out to be autonomous.” Baidu launched Apollo, the world’s largest open-source autonomous driving platform three years ago, inviting dozens of carmakers, auto component suppliers and technology firms to develop next-generation vehicles. Setting itself apart from other heavyweight autonomous driving advocates such as Tesla, Baidu has pivoted its approach from vehicle-side only technologies to smart infrastructure. Apollo’s smart transportation solution for autonomous driving and connected roads had expanded into 20 cities by June this year. Baidu also launched a new app on Wednesday specifically for its robotaxi service already operating in a handful of cities. Li said the robotaxi service will be expanded to 30 Chinese cities in the next three years. It is a taxi that steers itself by using algorithms to analyse traffic data collected in real-time by onboard sensors. As of now, Baidu has rolled out robotaxis in Beijing, Guangzhou, Changsha in Hunan province, and Cangzhou in Hebei province. The services can be accessed via its mapping app and autonomous driving Apollo Go app and have been largely made free to riders in order to promote the nascent technology. However, in a geofenced industrial park in Beijing, Baidu charges 30 yuan (US$4.60) for an autonomous ride.