China has set out its national guidelines for testing self-driving cars on its roads to ensure developments are safe but unhindered in a bid to ensure the country is a leader in the commercialisation of such vehicles.
The guidelines have been jointly issued by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the Ministry of Public Security, and the Ministry of Transport.
As part of the guidelines, local authorities have been granted permission to evaluate local conditions and take responsibility for arranging tests of autonomous vehicles in suitable areas.
Self-driving cars must have the ability to switch to a conventional driving mode
Companies looking for approval to test their developments must be independent legal entities registered in China. All tests must first be conducted off road in closed zones before sharing the roads with other users.
“Road testing for self-driving vehicles is a complicated project and safety should be the top priority,” says Xin Guobin, Vice-Minister of Industry and Information Technology.
Last month, Uber decided to halt its self-driving tests in North America following what is believed to be the first pedestrian fatality involving a robot car in Tempe, Arizona. Footage was released of the incident and caused widespread concern about the safety of autonomous vehicles.
China will be looking to do what it can using these guidelines to prevent a repeat of the incident in Arizona on its own streets. Guobin added that car manufacturers should intensify their efforts in the research and development of self-driving technology to offer more vehicles with safe and reliable performance.
As such, for now, all self-driving cars must have the ability to switch to a conventional driving mode to ensure test drivers can take over quickly if a malfunction occurs.
“The national guideline on self-driving vehicles will regulate the whole industry, providing a reference and guidance for local authorities that have yet to issue such guidelines,” comments Tao Ji, Technical Director of Baidu’s automatic driving department.
A closed testing ground was opened in Beijing back in January. The Chinese government are currently looking into how road infrastructure can be improved to support autonomous vehicles.
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