Caixin
Mar 26, 2018 05:31 PM
BUSINESS & TECH

Beijing Designates Suburban Roads as Driverless-Car Test Zones

An autonomous vehicle undergoes a road test in Beijing on Thursday. Photo: IC
An autonomous vehicle undergoes a road test in Beijing on Thursday. Photo: IC

*Announcement follows December rules that allow road tests of such vehicles in city

*Baidu Inc. still only company with a license to conduct such road tests in capital

(Beijing) — Beijing plans to allow autonomous-car testing on 105 kilometers (65 miles) of public roads, months after the capital issued regulations that allow driverless vehicles.

The 33 designated roads are located mainly in less-populated areas in the suburban districts of Shunyi, Haidian and Yizhuang, Beijing’s Municipal Commission of Transport said Thursday (link in Chinese).

Warning signs will be placed on the 33 roads, and all autonomous cars will have to be emblazoned with striking designs that indicate that they are self-driving, according to the commission. The statement did not specify a date on which testing will be permitted to begin.

The announcement comes after Beijing issued rules in December to allow road tests of autonomous vehicles in the capital.

The rules say that a driver — who is required to undergo no less than 50 hours of training — must be in the car in order to take control in case of an emergency.

Companies applying for a license have to prove their vehicles have undergone over 5,000 kilometers of closed-environment testing and provide capability reviews, which must include the ability to obey traffic rules and handle emergencies, according to the commission.

Internet giant Baidu Inc.’s application has been approved by the commission, the company said in a statement — making it the only recipient of a license to conduct road tests in the capital.

Baidu, which has launched its signature autonomous-driving platform Apollo, has long been lobbying the Chinese government to relax rules on autonomous driving.

In July, a video showing CEO Robin Li testing an autonomous vehicle on Beijing’s Fifth Ring Road — with his hands off the wheel — raised eyebrows at Beijing’s transportation regulator, which later demanded an investigation.

Following in Beijing’s tracks, Shanghai announced in February that it will greenlight public road-testing of autonomous vehicles. 

State-owned SAIC Motor Corp. Ltd. and electric car startup NIO have received testing permits from the local government.

Contact reporter Mo Yelin (yelinmo@caixin.com)

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