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China's 'Two Sessions' 2016

Chinese search giant and leading carmaker push Beijing for laws on self-piloted cars

Baidu and Zhejiang Geely urge political advisory body to create framework for new approach to driving, saying regulations would boost development of the tech and attract investment

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 March, 2016, 9:49pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 March, 2016, 9:49pm

The chairmen of Chinese internet search provider Baidu and carmaker Zhejiang Geely Holding Group have urged Beijing to speed up the drafting of a legal framework for autonomous driving technology.

Baidu chief executive Robin Li and Li Shufu, founder of Volvo owner Geely, wrote in separate proposals to the political advisory body, which is meeting in Beijing, that early establishment of a legal system governing autonomous driving would boost development of the technology and attract investment.

READ MORE: With Tesla’s Model S now Hong Kong’s top-selling sedan, chief Elon Musk predicts city to become world leader in electric vehicles

Mainland carmakers and tech companies are competing in the area with the likes of Google in the United States, Daimler in Germany and Nissan in Japan.

“Autonomous driving technology brings along new challenges and opportunity to China’s automobile industry,” Geely’s Li said in his proposal to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

“It is an urgent task to start preparing for the establishment of our legal framework.”

The race to bring to market self-piloting cars will depend in part on how receptive regulators are to the technology.

In the United States, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration last month told Google it would interpret the company’s software as a “driver” – a step toward compliance with safety standards.

The agency is also planning a US$4­ billion grant programme over 10 years to fund automated vehicle pilot projects.

In Hong Kong, Tesla was forced to remove autopilot features after the city’s Transport Department said they had not been approved.

READ MORE: On the safe side – Tesla removes autopilot from Hong Kong cars to keep within law

The department has allowed some autopilot features like automatic parking, side collision warning and brake holding ­functions.

However, other autopilot features such as auto lane changing and auto steering remain ­disabled.

Nissan, Japan’s second-largest carmaker, plans to make autonomous-drive features available in its domestic market this year. Japan and Germany propose international standards throughout the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.