China has released its first national guidelines on road tests for autonomous vehicles, a key step in a wider effort to promote development of the technology. The U.S., which is currently well ahead of China in terms of AV testing, currently depends on regulations at the state level.
Until today, only Chinese cities such as Shanghai and Beijing had implemented such rules. As China Money Network reported, China was seen at risk of slipping behind in terms of AV development due to uncertain government regulations.
While the new guidelines are at a national level, the decision making appears still to rest at the local level. Issued jointly by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of Transport, the guidelines allows local authorities to evaluate local conditions and arrange road tests for autonomous vehicles. It does state, however, that the test vehicles should be passenger or commercial automobiles, while low-speed vehicles or motorcycles were not included.
The regulation, which take effect on May 1, also require that test vehicles be able to switch between self-driving and conventional driving so test drivers can quickly take control when needed. And companies conducting tests must first complete tests in designated closed zones before conducting road tests.
The rules stipulate that the companies must be independent and registered in China, making it unclear whether foreign car makers could conduct tests. The rules require drivers to be employees of a testing company and to have a good record of driving history of no less than three years. Each vehicle is required to have at least RMB5 million of compulsory insurance for traffic accidents.
China has accelerated its AV testing efforts in recent months. On March 1, the city of Shanghai issued the country’s first road test licenses to Chinese car makers, SAIC Motor Corp Ltd and electric vehicle startup Nio Auto. The announcement came just days after the first known fatality involving and AV and a pedestrian in the U.S.
Beijing issued the nation’s first guideline for road tests of autonomous vehicles in December and unveiled a closed testing ground for autonomous cars in February.