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It might not be that smart, but stunt shows need for foresight

China Daily | Updated: 2017-07-07 08:12

It might not be that smart, but stunt shows need for foresight

In April, Baidu announced a new project called Apollo, which is designed to open up its autonomous driving platform to partners-a move to promote the development of self-driving technology. [Photo/VCG]

ROBIN LI, CEO of China's largest search engine Baidu, livestreamed himself traveling in what he claimed was his company's first driverless car on the Fifth Ring Road of Beijing on Wednesday. Southern Metropolis Daily comments:

The company's founder said he was on his way to a conference as he livestreamed himself sitting in a semi-autonomous car with his hands on his lap. The video was screened to attendees at the conference in which he outlined the company's new artificial intelligence initiatives for developers.

However, driverless cars are currently banned on China's roads, so some have suggested that Li's high-profile promotional stunt was illegal, and called for him to be punished according to the law.

A spokesperson for the Beijing traffic management authority said they were aware of the incident, but it is not yet known if the police are conducting an investigation.

If Li's stunt broke the law, he should be penalized, but the livestream suggests the car was not fully autonomous; rather in a hands-off form of cruise control.

Whatever the outcome, Li's publicity stunt shows that driverless cars will soon be here, and that Chinese companies are prepared to compete in this emerging industry.

Smart cars are a predictable outcome of the fast development of artificial intelligence, and major foreign auto and information technology companies have been engaged in the research and development of smart cars for a long time. Such vehicles are expected to be game-changers for society. Although the period of co-existence of traditional cars and smart cars on the road will likely be short, nevertheless it will need to be managed. That calls for the traffic and legal authorities to amend the laws and regulations in readiness for their arrival.

The new product is already knocking on the door. It is time to talk about the smart cars and what they mean for society.

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