This article by Jill Shen was originally published by TechNode. It has been edited and re-posted here with permission.
Self-driving cars may soon be a reality in Shanghai. Chinese automaker SAIC along with BMW and Didi Chuxing have become the first companies in China to win approval from regulators to offer robotaxi pilot services in the northwestern Jiading district of the city, a major milestone for Chinese players in the global autonomous driving race.
The trio of firms scored China’s first permits from Shanghai regulators to be included in the city’s autonomous vehicle passenger service pilot program at this year’s World Autonomous Vehicle Ecosystem Conference (WAVE) on Monday. Companies with the licenses are permitted to run up to 50 vehicles in the first round of applications and can potentially expand their fleets after six months without incident.
Is China Leading the Race Towards Mass Use of Self-Driving Cars?
With this round of licenses, self-driving cars are allowed to transport qualified passengers, or “volunteers,” as well as goods for delivery. Prior to this, only company employees involved in testing the vehicles were allowed to ride. Members of the public are allowed to volunteer for test rides. They are required to be in good health between the ages of 18 and 70. Service providers are required to offer insurance to passengers, according to a regulation released last week by the city government.
Didi told TechNode on Tuesday that passengers in the area will be able to hail rides on a fleet of around 30 robotaxis via its app, a feature that Didi CTO Zhang Bo said earlier this year in a media interview “will soon be rolled out.” A driver is required to be on board in order to take over as needed, and fees are not allowed at this point.
Wu Qing, vice mayor of Shanghai (middle) walking to AV test drive site accompanied by Xiao Jianxiong, CEO of Chinese-backed autonomous vehicle startup AutoX (right) at 2019 World Autonomous Vehicle Ecosystem Conference (WAVE) in Shanghai on Monday, September 16, 2019. (Image credit: WAVE)
Shanghai issued China’s first licenses on autonomous vehicle (AV) tests to SAIC and EV maker Nio in March 2018, and is accelerating toward making self-driving vehicle deployment a reality, as other Chinese cities race to catch up. Baidu’s AV project in Changsha, the capital of central Hunan province, is on track to introduce 100 driverless taxis in the city by year-end. In Guangzhou, Pony.ai has been allowed to transport its employees and a pool of volunteers in driverless vehicles in the city’s Nansha district beginning in December.
Shanghai has also formed an alliance with eastern Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and Anhui provinces to issue China’s first regional permits for vehicle tests to Zhejiang-based automaker Geely and AV startup AllRide.ai, which is headquartered in the Nanjing Municipality, the government said at the WAVE event. The move is expected to reduce the amount of red tape and save on costs for industry players, and therefore boost regional economic development, an official from the Shanghai Municipal Commission of Economy and Informatization said at the conference.
Cover photo: Roads in downtown Shanghai by Denys Nevozhai on Unsplash
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