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Autonomous vehicle test area set to open

By Jing Shuiyu | China Daily | Updated: 2018-01-05 07:53
Baidu conducts test runs with unmanned vehicles in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province. [Photo provided to China Daily]

China's first road section for testing autonomous vehicles will be launched in Beijing, said an official with the local traffic commission.

The move, closely following the nation's first guideline for such vehicles released by the capital last month, would help reduce the current bottleneck for Chinese companies in acquiring high-quality data.

The road section for such tests will be in Yizhuang, a town in Beijing's Daxing district, according to Zou Ying, a researcher at the technology department with Beijing Municipal Commission of Transport.

"Ride facilities, such as traffic signals, signs and lane markings, will be reconstructed, so that they can be identifiable for self-driving vehicles, "Zou said in a radio program recently. He didn't disclose details like road length, the timeline, or eligibility criteria.

Without such infrastructure in China, a majority of companies used to conduct self-driving road tests in California.

Nearly one-third of the more than 30 firms getting permission to conduct such tests are from China, according to data released by the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

Zheng Fangdan, a senior consultant at Chinese research firm CCID Consulting Co, said the move would facilitate the development of self-driving cars in the country.

"The availability of road testing in China will give companies betting on autonomous technologies access to a large amount of high-quality data. That is at the core of autonomous vehicles' capability to make control decisions in driving processes," she said.

Chinese authorities have been expediting relevant guidelines and regulations.

In mid-December, the country's first guideline on road tests for autonomous motor vehicles was released by local authorities in Beijing.

The guideline makes it clear that independent entities registered in China can apply to test at most five vehicles at a time, and they must first complete tests in designated closed zones before conducting road tests.

Nationwide regulations or guidelines are not available in China yet. But the Ministry of Transport said last month that it would conduct research to issue policies on autonomous technologies in 2018.

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