China’s southern tech hub Shenzhen becomes first city on mainland to regulate fully autonomous, driverless cars on some roads
- Shenzhen’s new regulations of intelligent connected cars took effect on August 1
- Registered autonomous vehicles that function without a human driver can travel on certain roads designated by local transport authorities
Under Shenzhen’s regulations of intelligent connected cars, which took effect on August 1, registered autonomous vehicles that function without a human driver can travel on certain roads and other areas designated by local transport authorities. A so-called safety operator, however, is still required.
“It fills the legal gap for domestic intelligent connected vehicles and clarifies liability,” Zhou said. Under the new rules, autonomous vehicles are classified into three levels: conditional, high-level and fully autonomous driving.
When an autonomous vehicle has a driver, this person is liable to pay compensation in case of an accident, according to the new regulations. When the vehicle is fully autonomous, the owner or manager of the car could be liable for compensation when damages are caused.
Shenzhen’s development model for autonomous vehicles reflects increased optimism about how this could help blaze a trail for other cities across China, the world’s biggest car market.
“With the legal and regulatory framework set in place [in Shenzhen], we expect the commercialisation of autonomous driving will move faster,” DeepRoute.ai’s Zhou said.
During a test ride on Tuesday afternoon, DeepRoute.ai’s driverless cars cruised around Shenzhen’s Futian Bonded Zone, a busy area where long lorries operate and illegally parked vehicles clog its narrow streets.
That three-kilometre trip took around eight minutes. Riders kept track of the car’s route and surrounding environment in real time through monitors inside the vehicle.
That service, which initially recorded more than 50,000 orders last year, is expected to initiate fully driverless, public transport operations in Shenzhen when local authorities draw up details of its coverage under the new regulations, according to the company.
DeepRoute.ai’s autonomous driving system is supported by five LIDARS – light detection and ranging sensors – and eight cameras built on the self-driving car, replacing the integrated sensor suite on the car roof that early autonomous vehicles used. A passenger can intervene with an extra brake on the seat, but has no control of the car’s steering wheel.