Cities, companies speed up testing of driverless taxis

2024-07-10 09:06:36Global Times Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

Some cities and companies in China are speeding up the trial of driverless taxis, which experts said on Tuesday highlights the advances in autonomous driving technology and related regulations.

A draft regulation on autonomous vehicles recently issued by the Beijing municipal government will contribute to the sound development of the city's autonomous driving industry, and also create a legislative and institutional model for various provinces and cities across the country,, an autonomous driving startup said in a reply to the Global Times on Tuesday.

The draft defines various application scenarios for autonomous driving vehicles, including clarifying the handling of traffic violations and determining responsibility in accidents. 

The company said new routes have been mapped out to connect Beijing Economic-Technological Development Area and the Beijing Daxing International Airport and the Beijing South Railway Station, and more routes are in the pipeline.

In June, the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Economy and Information Technology said it is seeking public feedback on the draft regulation. The draft supports the use of autonomous vehicles for public buses, ride-hailing and car rentals, in an effort to provide clear and predictable regulations for L3 (advanced autonomous level) and above, while maintaining safety standards.

Also, Shanghai issued its first demonstration permits for intelligent connected vehicles on Sunday. A total of four companies have received the permits, valid from July 4, 2024 to January 4, 2025, and are preparing their vehicles for the official launch in the near future. The permits, currently in the "free trial ride" phase, cover routes totalling 205 kilometers in Pudong.

"China leads the world in autonomous driving development, with extensive city coverage and high level of commercialization. The market is huge in industrial applications and service fields, aiming to reduce danger for humans and improve efficiency," Wu Shuocheng, a veteran automobile industry analyst, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

"This success is mainly due to the vehicle-road-cloud system. The alignment of high-quality driverless cars, infrastructure and regulatory policies makes the commercial operation of autonomous vehicles in a safer and smoother way," Wu said.

China's smart driving technology and policies are growing steadily. In 2023, the penetration rate of L2 (semi-autonomous level) passenger cars reached 47.3 percent, while in the first five months of 2024, it surpassed 50 percent, with some features nearing L3 capabilities. On July 3, 20 cities were appointed as demonstration cities of the vehicle-road-cloud system, showing the government's commitment, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology announced.

However, regulators still need to compare accident rates with human-driven cars, promulgate laws and regulations to address liability issues, and make further improvements to ensure the safety of large-scale commercialization in the future, according to Wu.

In Wuhan, Central China's Hubei Province, Baidu's driverless ride-hailing cars now offer services citywide. By the end of 2023, the company's driverless cabs had covered an area of 3,000 square kilometers and served an accumulated 1.98 million passengers, making it the world's largest autonomous driving service area.

By 2035, the scale of autonomous driving market will exceed 1.1 trillion yuan ($154 billion) in China and 3.1 trillion yuan globally, including software, hardware, and driverless taxi services for both passenger and commercial vehicles, according to Frost & Sullivan, a global market research and consulting firm.

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