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The Ukraine war in maps: The counteroffensive makes gains in Kyiv and Kherson | International

Voice Of EU

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April 1 | The counteroffensive makes gains

The Ukrainian counteroffensive is gaining effectiveness. The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said in its last report that local troops successfully launched several attacks around Kyiv and Kherson. This progress also represents an additional difficulty for Russia’s attempt to reorganize its forces and redirect efforts to eastern Ukraine, a move that has been underway since Friday of last week. Ukrainian forces could recover even more territory in the coming days, according to the ISW. Some analysts believe that Ukraine has retaken more territory over the last week than it has lost.

Ukrainian activity went beyond local assaults. Before dawn on Friday, two Ukrainian helicopters struck an oil depot in the Russian city of Belgorod, some 20 miles (40 km) from the border, according to regional authorities there.


City controlled

by the Russians

Annexed by Russia

in 2014

Note: What does “control” mean? It requires exerting a physical influence over an area to prevent its use by the enemy. It could be achieved by occupying the area or by holding power over it with weapons. It does not imply any form of governance or legitimacy. Sources: Institute for the Study of War and American Enterprise Institute’s Critical Threats Project (for advances and areas under control); UK intelligence (besieged cities); EL PAÍS and other sources (fighting and airstrikes).

City controlled

by the Russians

Annexed by Russia

in 2014

Note: What does “control” mean? It requires exerting a physical influence over an area to prevent its use by the enemy. It could be achieved by occupying the area or by holding power over it with weapons. It does not imply any form of governance or legitimacy. Sources: Institute for the Study of War and American Enterprise Institute’s Critical Threats Project (for advances and areas under control); UK intelligence (besieged cities); EL PAÍS and other sources (fighting and airstrikes).

City controlled by the Russians

Annexed by Russia

in 2014

Note: What does “control” mean? It requires exerting a physical influence over an area to prevent its use by the enemy. It could be achieved by occupying the area or by holding power over it with weapons. It does not imply any form of governance or legitimacy. Sources: Institute for the Study of War and American Enterprise Institute’s Critical Threats Project (for advances and areas under control); UK intelligence (besieged cities); EL PAÍS and other sources (fighting and airstrikes).

In Kyiv, the counterattacks coincided with a withdrawal of Russian troops from Brovary for redeployment on other fronts. For several days now, Putin’s army has also been bringing in some of its forces serving abroad. The UK Defense Ministry’s intelligence services view this apparently improvised restructuring of resources as a sign of Russia’s difficulties and of the losses it has suffered since the beginning of the invasion on February 24.

In the north, the Ukrainian counteroffensive has taken back Sloboda and Lukashivka along the axis between Chernihiv and Kyiv, according to the latest UK intelligence update.

In the east, Russian forces have regrouped to advance from Izyum to Donetsk and Luhansk, where air operations have intensified, according to Ukraine. Kharkov continued to sustain shelling, but Russian troops did not take any further territory in the last 24 hours.

In the south, the Ukrainian resistance took back the towns of Orlove, Zagradivka and Kochubeyevka, north of Kherson. In the port city of Mariupol, Russian troops continued to slowly take additional territory, and the ISW reiterated that the city could fall very soon.

March 31 | New shelling but no advance

Russian forces continued to shell major cities, including the capital Kyiv, Chernihiv and Kharkiv. Despite Moscow’s claims that it would scale back operations and focus on the eastern region of the Donbas, recent attacks appeared to be targeting key infrastructure in these cities, such as fuel storage sites, in order to inflict damage on Ukraine’s logistical operations, said regional authorities.

Fighting continued in Brovary, northeast of Kyiv, and there was movement of Russian troops in a northern direction, possibly signaling a redeployment to other axes of advance, said the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).


Coity controlled

by the Russians

Annexed by Russia

in 2014

Note: What does “control” mean? It requires exerting a physical influence over an area to prevent its use by the enemy. It could be achieved by occupying the area or by holding power over it with weapons. It does not imply any form of governance or legitimacy. Sources: Institute for the Study of War and American Enterprise Institute’s Critical Threats Project (for advances and areas under control); UK intelligence (besieged cities); EL PAÍS and other sources (fighting and airstrikes).

City controlled

by the Russian

Annexed by Russia

in 2014

Note: What does “control” mean? It requires exerting a physical influence over an area to prevent its use by the enemy. It could be achieved by occupying the area or by holding power over it with weapons. It does not imply any form of governance or legitimacy. Sources: Institute for the Study of War and American Enterprise Institute’s Critical Threats Project (for advances and areas under control); UK intelligence (besieged cities); EL PAÍS and other sources (fighting and airstrikes).

City controlled by the Russians

Annexed by Russia

in 2014

Note: What does “control” mean? It requires exerting a physical influence over an area to prevent its use by the enemy. It could be achieved by occupying the area or by holding power over it with weapons. It does not imply any form of governance or legitimacy. Sources: Institute for the Study of War and American Enterprise Institute’s Critical Threats Project (for advances and areas under control); UK intelligence (besieged cities); EL PAÍS and other sources (fighting and airstrikes).

There was significant Russian shelling and missile strikes around Chernihiv, according to the UK Defense Ministry’s intelligence update, and also around Kharkiv, where around 15% of buildings have been destroyed, according to the mayor.

In the east, Ukrainian forces repelled several Russian attacks in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, according to the ISW. Further south, on the shore of the Sea of Azov, Russian troops continued to take territory in Mariupol, and reportedly have much of the city under their control.

Although Russia has not launched any clear offensives in the last few days, the ISW noted that it has been deploying support personnel and auxiliary units to replace combat losses. It is still unclear how the new strategy will play out.

According to the Ukrainian General Staff, the death of Russian officials is impeding the army’s ability to reorganize and find replacements.

March 30 | Russian troops still near Kyiv

The Russian army is maintaining its positions near Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, despite the strategy change announced by the Kremlin last week, when it said the focus would shift to the eastern Donbas region. According to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), “Russian forces continued fighting to hold their forwardmost positions on the eastern and western Kyiv outskirts even as badly damaged units withdrew to Russia from elsewhere on the Kyiv and Chernihiv axes.”

The Russians continued to actively resist Ukrainian counteroffensives in Irpin and Hostomel, according to the ISW. There were troops in the areas of Bucha and Nemishyev, northwest of Irpin, and artillery fire was being aimed at Ukrainian positions north and west of the capital. There were strikes against Makariv and Irpin, which were shelled on Tuesday.


City controlled

by the Russians

Annexed by Russia

in 2014

Note: What does “control” mean? It requires exerting a physical influence over an area to prevent its use by the enemy. It could be achieved by occupying the area or by holding power over it with weapons. It does not imply any form of governance or legitimacy. Sources: Institute for the Study of War and American Enterprise Institute’s Critical Threats Project (for advances and areas under control); UK intelligence (besieged cities); EL PAÍS and other sources (fighting and airstrikes).

City controlled

by the Russians

Annexed by Russia

in 2014

Note: What does “control” mean? It requires exerting a physical influence over an area to prevent its use by the enemy. It could be achieved by occupying the area or by holding power over it with weapons. It does not imply any form of governance or legitimacy. Sources: Institute for the Study of War and American Enterprise Institute’s Critical Threats Project (for advances and areas under control); UK intelligence (besieged cities); EL PAÍS and other sources (fighting and airstrikes).

City controlled by the Russians

Annexed by Russia

in 2014

Note: What does “control” mean? It requires exerting a physical influence over an area to prevent its use by the enemy. It could be achieved by occupying the area or by holding power over it with weapons. It does not imply any form of governance or legitimacy. Sources: Institute for the Study of War and American Enterprise Institute’s Critical Threats Project (for advances and areas under control); UK intelligence (besieged cities); EL PAÍS and other sources (fighting and airstrikes).

However, both the ISW and the UK Defense Ministry believe that the Russian offensive has failed in its attempt to encircle Kyiv, at least for now. Russian statements and reports of Russian troops retreating into Belarus might indicate that Russia has accepted the loss of initiative in the region.

Russia intensified its efforts in northeast Ukraine, probably to try to connect its positions southeast of Kharkiv and Izium with its forces in the eastern Luhansk region.

In the east, the Russian advance in Mariupol continued to gain ground. According to the ISW, the city could fall within days.

March 29 | Russia not giving up on Kyiv

Ukrainian troops may have regained control of Irpin, a suburb located northwest of Kyiv, according to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) and the Ukrainian General Staff. This would be the third area to be controlled by local forces around the capital in the last week. Maintaining this position will be key in the effort to repel the Russian troops that reached the outskirts of the capital from the Dnipro River.

Despite the Kremlin’s announcement that it was shifting its focus to the eastern Donbas region, the Russians do not appear to have given up on their attempts to encircle Kyiv.

Along the Chernihiv-Sumy axis, which is being used by Russian troops to advance towards Kyiv, the Ukrainian counteroffensive has achieved some results. Following several days of fighting in Brovary, Ukraine appears to have stalled the Russian forces and regained control of Rudinstke.

This may be happening, according to the same sources, because Ukrainian defenders are taking advantage of ongoing Russian force rotations. Russian troops have barely made any progress in recent days as they work to resolve logistical issues. According to the ISW, “Russian conscription efforts, which Ukrainian intelligence expects to begin on April 1, are unlikely to provide Russian forces around Ukraine with sufficient combat power to restart major offensive operations in the near term.”


City controlled

by the Russians

Annexed by Russia

in 2014

Note: What does “control” mean? It requires exerting a physical influence over an area to prevent its use by the enemy. It could be achieved by occupying the area or by holding power over it with weapons. It does not imply any form of governance or legitimacy. Sources: Institute for the Study of War and American Enterprise Institute’s Critical Threats Project (for advances and areas under control); UK intelligence (besieged cities); EL PAÍS and other sources (fighting and airstrikes).

City controlled

by the Russians

Annexed by Russia

in 2014

Note: What does “control” mean? It requires exerting a physical influence over an area to prevent its use by the enemy. It could be achieved by occupying the area or by holding power over it with weapons. It does not imply any form of governance or legitimacy. Sources: Institute for the Study of War and American Enterprise Institute’s Critical Threats Project (for advances and areas under control); UK intelligence (besieged cities); EL PAÍS and other sources (fighting and airstrikes).

City controlled by the Russians

Annexed by Russia

in 2014

Note: What does “control” mean? It requires exerting a physical influence over an area to prevent its use by the enemy. It could be achieved by occupying the area or by holding power over it with weapons. It does not imply any form of governance or legitimacy. Sources: Institute for the Study of War and American Enterprise Institute’s Critical Threats Project (for advances and areas under control); UK intelligence (besieged cities); EL PAÍS and other sources (fighting and airstrikes).

In the east, Russian forces continued to bomb Kharkiv, the second-largest city in Ukraine, but made no significant gains and did not launch ground attacks. According to UK intelligence reports, the Russians may already be deploying a private mercenary group known as the Warner Group, whose members have combat experience in Syria and Lybia. Their presence had been noted earlier, but it was thought that the group was made up of small units. Now, over 1,000 fighters are expected to be deployed in the eastern area alone.

In the south, Russian troops continued to make gains in Mariupol, the Ukrainian General Staff admitted. However, the Russians have reportedly suffered “great losses.”

March 28 | Slow Russian advance

In the first hours since Russia changed its focus (it says it will now concentrate on the Donbas region), the only progress made by troops was near Mariupol, where they were said to be trying to capture the port, according to the UK Defense Ministry’s intelligence update. The city, which has been withstanding heavy attacks for a month, is a key location to control access to the Sea of Azov.

In northern Ukraine, fighting continued outside the capital, Kyiv, where loud explosions were heard before dawn, according to The New York Times. There have been several Ukrainian counterattacks in the areas of Brovary in the east and Irpin in the west. Two weeks ago, Russian advances in these areas suggested an imminent attack on the capital, but this has not yet happened, presumably due to Russia’s logistical problems.


City controlled

by the Russians

Annexed by Russia

in 2014

Note: What does “control” mean? It requires exerting a physical influence over an area to prevent its use by the enemy. It could be achieved by occupying the area or by holding power over it with weapons. It does not imply any form of governance or legitimacy. Sources: Institute for the Study of War and American Enterprise Institute’s Critical Threats Project (for advances and areas under control); UK intelligence (besieged cities); EL PAÍS and other sources (fighting and airstrikes).

City controlled

by the Russians

Annexed by Russia

in 2014

Note: What does “control” mean? It requires exerting a physical influence over an area to prevent its use by the enemy. It could be achieved by occupying the area or by holding power over it with weapons. It does not imply any form of governance or legitimacy. Sources: Institute for the Study of War and American Enterprise Institute’s Critical Threats Project (for advances and areas under control); UK intelligence (besieged cities); EL PAÍS and other sources (fighting and airstrikes).

City controlled by the Russians

Annexed by Russia

in 2014

Note: What does “control” mean? It requires exerting a physical influence over an area to prevent its use by the enemy. It could be achieved by occupying the area or by holding power over it with weapons. It does not imply any form of governance or legitimacy. Sources: Institute for the Study of War and American Enterprise Institute’s Critical Threats Project (for advances and areas under control); UK intelligence (besieged cities); EL PAÍS and other sources (fighting and airstrikes).

The eastern front is taking on special relevance following the Kremlin’s strategy change. There were reports of recent fighting in Sumy and Izyum, where the Russians were moving south while the Ukrainian defense was holding out in the north, “likely hindering Russian capabilities to resume offensive operations in the southern direction,” according to the ISW.

March 27 | No change in sight

Although the Russian Defense Ministry said on Friday that efforts would be focused on the Donbas region, an assessment by the ISW did not observe any changes to Russian activities near Kyiv. According to this research institute, troops continued to try to secure positions from which to attack or encircle the Ukrainian capital. Allies and the Ukrainian government were also wary of Russia’s announcement.


City controlled

by the Russians

Annexed by Russia

in 2014

Note: What does “control” mean? It requires exerting a physical influence over an area to prevent its use by the enemy. It could be achieved by occupying the area or by holding power over it with weapons. It does not imply any form of governance or legitimacy. Sources: Institute for the Study of War and American Enterprise Institute’s Critical Threats Project (for advances and areas under control); UK intelligence (besieged cities); EL PAÍS and other sources (fighting and airstrikes).

City controlled

by the Russians

Annexed by Russia

in 2014

Note: What does “control” mean? It requires exerting a physical influence over an area to prevent its use by the enemy. It could be achieved by occupying the area or by holding power over it with weapons. It does not imply any form of governance or legitimacy. Sources: Institute for the Study of War and American Enterprise Institute’s Critical Threats Project (for advances and areas under control); UK intelligence (besieged cities); EL PAÍS and other sources (fighting and airstrikes).

City controlled by the Russians

Annexed by Russia

in 2014

Note: What does “control” mean? It requires exerting a physical influence over an area to prevent its use by the enemy. It could be achieved by occupying the area or by holding power over it with weapons. It does not imply any form of governance or legitimacy. Sources: Institute for the Study of War and American Enterprise Institute’s Critical Threats Project (for advances and areas under control); UK intelligence (besieged cities); EL PAÍS and other sources (fighting and airstrikes).

Two missiles hit Lviv, 60 kilometers from the Polish border, on Saturday. And the UK Defense Ministry said on Sunday that the Russian air force continued to attack targets across Ukraine.

The battleground in northern Ukraine was largely static, said the UK intelligence report. In those areas, counterattacks are hindering Russian attempts to reorganize. On Saturday, Ukrainian forces launched small counterattacks near Kharkiv, in the northeast.

In the east, UK services said they believed that Russian forces are being concentrated in order to try to surround Ukrainian troops in the Donbas, advancing from Kharkiv in the north and Mariupol in the south.

The ISW believes that Mariupol may come under Russian control soon. Fighting continued in the city, and Russian forces continued to sustain significant losses.

March 26 | A change in strategy?

Reports varied regarding the situation on the fronts. Russian forces on Friday said they intended to reduce their military targets and shift their focus to the Donbas region. However, an assessment by the ISW questioned this statement and considered it an attempt to adjust the narrative so that Russia’s limited progress of the past few weeks will look like it was part of the plan.

The news agency Reuters on Saturday said that reports of intense fighting in different parts of the country suggest that there will be no swift end to the conflict. Two missiles struck Lviv on Saturday afternoon, producing large columns of smoke. The mayor confirmed that the attacks damaged an industrial facility used for fuel storage and injured five people.


City controlled

by the Russians

Annexed by Russia

in 2014

Note: What does “control” mean? It requires exerting a physical influence over an area to prevent its use by the enemy. It could be achieved by occupying the area or by holding power over it with weapons. It does not imply any form of governance or legitimacy. Sources: Institute for the Study of War and American Enterprise Institute’s Critical Threats Project (for advances and areas under control); UK intelligence (besieged cities); EL PAÍS and other sources (fighting and airstrikes).

City controlled

by the Russians

Annexed by Russia

in 2014

Note: What does “control” mean? It requires exerting a physical influence over an area to prevent its use by the enemy. It could be achieved by occupying the area or by holding power over it with weapons. It does not imply any form of governance or legitimacy. Sources: Institute for the Study of War and American Enterprise Institute’s Critical Threats Project (for advances and areas under control); UK intelligence (besieged cities); EL PAÍS and other sources (fighting and airstrikes).

City controlled by the Russians

Annexed by Russia

in 2014

Note: What does “control” mean? It requires exerting a physical influence over an area to prevent its use by the enemy. It could be achieved by occupying the area or by holding power over it with weapons. It does not imply any form of governance or legitimacy. Sources: Institute for the Study of War and American Enterprise Institute’s Critical Threats Project (for advances and areas under control); UK intelligence (besieged cities); EL PAÍS and other sources (fighting and airstrikes).

There was also fighting around Kyiv. The ISW registered minor progress by Ukrainian counterattacks north of the capital, with images confirming the presence of local troops in parts of Irpin that were earlier under Russian control. Invading troops were also forced back around Brovary.

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WHO concerned about first cases of monkeypox in children | Science & Tech

Voice Of EU

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Reports of young children infected by monkeypox in Europe – there were at least four in recent days, with a fifth one recorded a few weeks ago – have raised concern about the progress of an outbreak now affecting more than 5,500 people in 51 countries.

The health organization’s Europe chief, Hans Kluge, also warned on Friday that overall cases in the region have tripled in the last two weeks. “Urgent and coordinated action is imperative if we are to turn a corner in the race to reverse the ongoing spread of this disease,” said Kluge.

The WHO has not yet declared the outbreak a global health emergency, however. At a meeting last Saturday, the agency ruled it out but said it could change its views if certain scenarios come to pass, such as a spike in cases among vulnerable groups like children, pregnant women and immunocompromised people. Available data shows that children, especially younger ones, are at higher risk of serious illness if they become infected.

The last known case of a child contracting monkeypox was reported on Tuesday in Spain, where a three-year-old was confirmed to have the disease. Cases in Spain are now in excess of 1,500 according to health reports filed by regional governments.

Also on Tuesday, Dutch authorities reported that a primary school student had become infected and that contact tracing had been initiated to rule out more cases within the child’s close circle of contacts. On Saturday, France reported one confirmed case and one suspected case among elementary school students.

The UK has so far recorded at least two infections in minors. The first case, reported in May, involved a baby who had to be taken to intensive care for treatment with the antiviral Tecovirimat, of which few doses are available but which has already begun to be distributed in several countries. British authorities this week reported a second case of a child with monkeypox. The UK currently has the biggest monkeypox outbreak beyond Africa.

The main vaccine being used against monkeypox was originally developed for smallpox. The European Medicines Agency said earlier this week it was beginning to evaluate whether the shot should be authorized for monkeypox. The WHO has said supplies of the vaccine, made by Bavarian Nordic, are extremely limited.

Until May, monkeypox had never been known to cause large outbreaks beyond Africa, where the disease is endemic in several countries and mostly causes limited outbreaks when it jumps to people from infected wild animals.

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Jury calls for sweeping reforms to Canada’s approach to femicide | Canada

Voice Of EU

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A community in rural Canada has made a series of transformative recommendations at a coroner’s inquest that – if adopted – could position the country’s most populous province as a leader in preventing femicides, particularly those carried out by an intimate partner.

The jury in Renfrew County, Ontario, just west of Canada’s capital, delivered 86 recommendations this week in a unanimous verdict on the deaths of three local women, who were killed by the same man on a single morning nearly seven years ago.

The boldest was to have the Ontario government “formally declare intimate partner violence as an epidemic” that requires “significant financial investment” and deep systemic change to remedy.

Since the triple homicide on 22 September 2015, 111 women in Ontario have been murdered by their current or former partner, the inquest heard. Every six days in Canada, a woman is killed by her intimate partner, according to Statistics Canada.

The jury also recommended official prominence be given to the word “femicide” – to have it be listed as a manner of death by coroners in the province and added to the criminal code of Canada to underscore the misogyny beneath the killings of women and girls because of their gender.

“A lot of the recommendations are groundbreaking,” said Pamela Cross, a lawyer and expert on intimate partner violence in Ontario who testified at the inquest.

The inquest, which heard from nearly 30 witnesses over three weeks, was meant to examine the systems that broke down in the weeks, months and years leading up to the day Basil Borutski got in a borrowed car, drove to Carol Culleton’s cottage and strangled her with a coaxial cable, then moved on to Anastasia Kuzyk’s house where he shot her to death and then to Nathalie Warmerdam’s farm where he shot her too.

All three women had previously been in an intimate relationship with Borutski. He had been in and out of jail for assaulting Kuzyk and Warmerdam and was on probation at the time of the murders and subject to a weapons ban.

Borutski had been flagged as “high risk” two years before the triple homicide, the inquest heard, and exhibited 30 out of 41 risk factors identified by Ontario’s domestic violence death review committee – including a deep sense of victimhood and the ability to convince new partners he was innocent and unfairly targeted by police in his prior convictions.

Police witnesses told the jury Borutski was very good at “manipulation” and constantly flouted court orders, including never showing up to a mandated partner assault response program.

The jury heard from family members, including Valerie Warmerdam, Nathalie’s daughter, who painted a nuanced and empathetic picture of Borutski as a troubled stepfather. It heard from a frontline worker who described Warmerdam and Kuzyk’s constant terror that Borutski would kill them or harm their family.

The inquest jury demanded decision-makers make “significant financial investments” in ending violence, have police all use the same records management system and create clear guidelines for flagging high-risk abusers. It urged the study of disclosure protocols like Clare’s Law, which is used in the United Kingdom and in parts of Canada to allow a concerned person to check if their partner has a police record of intimate partner violence.

Valerie Warmerdam welcomed the verdict, but underscored the need for action on the part of governments who will receive these recommendations in the wake of the inquest. “I want change,” she said. “These recommendations are a good start, if they are actioned. That’s a big if.”

Kirsten Mercer, counsel to End Violence Against Women Renfrew County (EVA), noted that it was the jury themselves who added the epidemic recommendation among 13 others, including creating a registry of high-risk offenders akin to the sex offenders registry, and exploring electronic monitoring of those charged or found guilty of an IPV-related offence.

“The jury has asked that we tell the truth about intimate partner violence,” Mercer told the media after the verdict. “The jury has asked that we put our money where our mouth is.”

The idea to add femicide to the coroner’s list of manners of death and to the Criminal Code of Canada came from the joint submission. Countries in Latin America have already added this as a criminal offence, she said, and should be looked to as a model for how to do it here.

Accountability was a priority for this jury, Mercer said. The verdict called for the creation of an accountability body akin to the United Kingdom’s domestic abuse commissioner and a specific committee to make sure this verdict does not just languish in decision-makers’ inboxes.

“We are not going to wait forever any more.”

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Apollo Go: The Beijing neighborhood with robotaxis and driverless delivery service | International

Voice Of EU

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Book a robotaxi on a mobile app and it will pick you up in less than 10 minutes. It’s 2:00pm on a Thursday in Beijing and our ride is going smoothly with no human intervention so far. “Sometimes we have to speed up manually to avoid causing traffic jams. Bicycles and motorcycles often cause traffic congestion because they ignore traffic signals,” says the driver supervising our trip, as the steering wheel magically moves by itself.

The 37-square-mile (60 square kilometers) Beijing High-level Automated Driving Demonstration Area (BJHAD) is where the country’s first pilot project to use autonomous vehicles on public roads is happening. Located in a secluded district in the southeastern part of the city, BJHAD is the test site for a futuristic plan that envisions turning Beijing into the standard-bearer for artificial intelligence (AI). The Apollo robotaxis manufactured by Baidu and the autonomous delivery vehicles manufactured by JD.com (aka Jingdong) zip around a tranquil utopia that stands in stark contrast to the hectic jungle of downtown traffic.

“[A robotaxi] can handle an average of 15 daily bookings, most of which are trips between a subway stop and an office,” said the cab driver. In November 2021, Baidu and Pony.ai became the first companies authorized to operate a fleet of 100 robotaxis in BJHAD. As of April 2022, humans are no longer required to sit in the driver’s seat of the robotaxi, which is allowed to travel at a maximum speed of 37 miles per hour (60 kph). The service is free for now, although the two companies are commercially licensed.

Baidu, China’s leading search engine, is diversifying its business by commercializing its AI and intelligent transportation technology. Its Apollo Go program is currently operating in seven cities, and the company plans to expand to 65 cities by 2025, and 100 cities by 2030. Unlike the Waymo robotaxis that Google began operating in 2020 in the US, Baidu’s vehicles circulate during the day, enabling them to collect more data.

Although Baidu has topped the list of Chinese companies with the most patents for AI applications over the last four years, e-commerce giant JD.com is the leader in the autonomous delivery vehicle space. In 2016, Jingdong established its headquarters in BJHAD, and its delivery robots now dominate the streets. These vehicles mainly transport orders from the 7FRESH smart supermarket chain operated by JD that combines e-commerce and traditional commerce. “Instead of people going out to buy products, we deliver them,” said Yang Han. Who works in Jingdong’s communications department.

JD’s applies big data analytical methods to the information collected from more than 400 million annual users, and utilizes it to tailor inventories to the specific needs of each 7FRESH physical stores location. The entire 7FRESH inventory is available in the app. The delivery robots, which travel at nine miles per hour (15 kph) and can carry 220-440 pounds (100-200 kilos), deliver orders in less than an hour within a three-mile (five kilometer) range.

JD employees rely on smaller robots to send documents and other items between offices in 10 minutes or less. “They speed up the work and saves us from having to run around from one place to another,” said Yang Han. The robots are able to operate elevators and open doors by themselves as they follow their delivery routes.

The robots can recognize their surroundings and avoid obstacles with a 98% accuracy rate for small objects. Information streams in through cameras and other sensors, while the navigation algorithm pinpoints their location and plans routes. JD’s cloud-based simulation platform accumulates data from every trip to continuously improve the robots’ capabilities.

The Covid pandemic spurred JD to accelerate its autonomous delivery program, enabling it to deploy small and large delivery vehicles to the Chinese cities most affected by the pandemic over the last two and a half years. In early 2020, during the peak of the pandemic in Wuhan, these delivery vehicles traveled a total of 4,225 miles (6,800 kilometers) and delivered more than 13,000 packages.

In a country where low unemployment is one of the main pillars of its social stability goals, the move to autonomous vehicles may prove to be risky in the long run. However, Yang Han insists that the objective is to “achieve a synergy between humans and machines… The goal is to take the pressure off delivery drivers and allow them to focus on customer service and vehicle maintenance. The couriers don’t need to transport the goods. Instead, they wait by the curb for the robots to arrive, and then walk the goods to the customer’s door. “

BJHAD is part of the Beijing Economic and Technological Development Area, the first place in China specifically geared to AI research. The country aspires to become the world leader in AI by 2030 and to leave the “factory for the world” image behind for good.

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