Chinese self-driving start-up WeRide said it will be the first in China to test fully driverless cars on the open road as the world’s biggest auto market doubles down on efforts to develop autonomous driving technologies. After securing China’s first remote-control permit for road tests of Intelligent and Connected Vehicles (ICV) from local authorities in Guangzhou, capital of southern Guangdong province, WeRide will conduct road tests of driverless vehicles within designated open roads in the city, according to a company statement on Friday. The company will still use a number of safety controls during the tests, including 5G-enabled remote control. The driverless cars can switch to remote takeover mode under unusual traffic conditions, such as road works or temporary changes to traffic rules by authorities. “WeRide’s self-driving system now leads the industry with its technical stability and safety performance and we will pursue fully driverless technology in the next two to three years,” Tony Han Xu, founder and chief executive of WeRide said. “I’m confident that WeRide will become the first company to provide the public with a reliable self-driving robotaxi service in China.” In China, WeRide competes with Baidu’s Apollo, self-driving start-ups AutoX, Pony.ai and ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing, who are testing autonomous cars in cities including Shanghai and Changsha, but with safety drivers on board to take control in unexpected situations. WeRide, Alibaba’s AutoNavi expand roll-out of robotaxis in Guangzhou WeRide’s permit for road tests of fully driverless cars on the open road takes it one step closer to the realisation of fully driverless mobility services, which many experts say will be the only mainstream way, in the near term, of making money from self-driving technologies. Founded in Silicon Valley in 2017, Nissan-backed WeRide has focused on research and development of Level 4 autonomous driving technologies, which, according to standards defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), means that the car can handle most driving situations independently although a human driver can still request control. To date, WeRide’s self-driving fleet has increased to more than 100 vehicles, and reached a milestone of about 2.6 million kilometres of open road tests. The company launched a publicly accessible robotaxi service in Guangzhou last November, covering an area of 144 square kilometres in Huangpu District and Guanghzou Development District. Last month, WeRide partnered with Alibaba AutoNavi’s Gaode app, also known as Amap, to expand the roll-out of robotaxis in the city. Alibaba is the parent company of the South China Morning Post. The move is in line with China’s push to accelerate the development of autonomous technologies. China wants smart vehicles to account for half of all new cars sold at home by 2020, according to a road map from the country’s top economic planner. By 2025, the country expects a fully-formed ecosystem around smart vehicles and highly automated cars to take up 15 per cent of sales.