China behind the curve on self-driving car regulations

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A fleet of vehicles equipped with Baidu’s autonomous driving technologies.  Photo: Reuters / Baidu

Increased pressure from industry executives has paid off in Beijing, which has finally given the go ahead for driverless cars to hit the streets.

The new regulations, issued on Monday by the Beijing Municipal Commission of Transport, mirror regulations elsewhere, still requiring the self-driving cars to be accompanied by a human driver, Caixin reports.

Though other countries still prohibit fully driverless road tests, the state of California plans to allow cars without humans on the road next year, while the UK says it could happen there as early as 2019. 42 companies are already testing around 285 autonomous vehicles in California, according to The Verge.

Beijing is the first Chinese city to allow companies to try out the technology on its streets, reflecting regulators’ reluctance to keep pace with the government’s push to compete in the sector. Autonomous cars were identified as a key sector in the “Made in China 2025” plan, released in 2015.

Despite the slow going, experts are hopeful that a plan to allow road tests nationwide will emerge now that Beijing has taken the step.

“Beijing’s new rule — whose standards parallel US standards — represents a milestone step for the industry,” legal expert He Shanshan was quoted by Caixin as saying. Other cities such as Shanghai, Chongqing and Shenzhen, may follow suit in the coming months, she added.

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