China released the first draft national guideline on the use of self-driving vehicles for public transport, a key step to accelerate the large-scale commercialization of self-driving technology and encourage local authorities to formulate relevant management policies , said industry experts.
The country will encourage the use of autonomous vehicles such as buses in a closed bus rapid transit or BRT system, and allow autonomous vehicles to offer taxi services in simple and relatively controllable scenarios, according to draft rules. released by the Department of Transport on Monday. Authorities are asking for public opinion or reactions to the directive until September 7.
“The draft national autonomous vehicle rules are expected to better regulate the entire industry, providing a reference and guidance to local authorities who have not yet issued similar guidelines,” said Center researcher Zhang Xiang. Automotive Industry Innovation Research Fellowship at North China University of Technology in Beijing.
The draft regulations classified autonomous vehicles into three types: conditionally, highly and fully autonomous vehicles, depending on the degree of their autonomous capability.
The guideline stated that conditionally and highly autonomous vehicles should have human drivers. Remote drivers or safety supervisors should be required for fully autonomous vehicles. Also, safety should be the top priority in managing autonomous vehicles, he said.
The draft directive also states that routes for self-driving vehicles should be away from densely populated areas such as schools, hospitals and large shopping malls.
The move came after local governments in Wuhan and Chongqing’s Yongchuan district granted tech giant Baidu the country’s first permits to offer fully driverless commercial robotaxi services to the public on open roads.
Apollo Go, the name of Baidu’s self-driving carpooling service, is allowed to charge fares for robotaxi services without a human driver or in-car safety supervisor in designated areas.
Noting that China has taken the lead in research and development as well as the application of self-driving technologies, Zhang said the latest move will encourage self-driving companies to carry out test drives and commercial operations of robotaxi services. in more cities, accelerating the large-scale commercial use of autonomous vehicles across the country.
Some local governments have already put in place a series of supportive policies to promote the commercialization of self-driving technology.
For example, the southern Chinese metropolis of Shenzhen has allowed fully autonomous vehicles without human drivers to operate on certain roads since August 1, when a local regulation on smart, internet-connected vehicles came into effect.
In July, Beijing launched China’s first pilot zone for self-driving vehicle commercial services. Baidu and self-driving startup Pony.ai are the first companies to get permission, and they will offer paid robotaxi services, without a security operator behind the wheel, in a 60 square kilometer area in Yizhuang, a southern suburb of Beijing.
However, a supervisor will always be seated in the front passenger seat to ensure safety.
“Currently, only a few countries, including China and Germany, have rolled out national-level policies that support the development of autonomous vehicles,” said Lyu Jinghong, smart mobility analyst at research firm BloombergNEF.
Lyu added that clear regulations at the national level will encourage local governments and self-driving companies to accelerate the application of self-driving technology, which is crucial to achieve the commercialization goal.