Safety highlighted in new document regulating self-driving cars' road tests
Authorities in China have issued new regulations for road tests of self-driving cars, which will allow local authorities to sign off on vehicle tests that match local conditions, while ensuring that safety is the top priority.
Xin Guobin, China's Vice Minister of Industry and Information Technology, says that road tests are an indispensable part of the development of self-driving vehicles.
"To ensure the safety, reliability, and efficiency of self-driving vehicles on all kinds of roads under all sorts of traffic conditions, the self-driving function needs a great deal of complicated testing. Before they enter the market, intelligent vehicles must go through sufficient tests under real traffic conditions, in order to fully certify their self-driving functions, and ensure safe coordination between them and the road, facilities as well as other drivers, cyclists or pedestrians," says Xin.
Self-driving vehicles are displayed in Xiongan New Area in north China on December 20, 2017. [File photo: VCG]
According to the new regulations, test drivers must follow road rules, monitor the car's behavior, keep an eye on the surrounding environment during the tests and be ready to take control of the vehicle in case of an emergency.
The regulations also stipulate that testers must take responsibility for accidents that happen during the tests.
"Safety must be the fundamental premise and bottom line for implementing the regulations and conducting road tests. Safety must be guaranteed not only for the cars but also in the process of testing those vehicles. Traffic monitoring should also be strengthened so as to avoid accidents," says Xin.
Questions have been raised by some on whether foreign companies can road test their self-driving cars in China.
Chen Yin, Chief Engineer at the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, says China welcomes foreign companies to conduct such tests in China, based on Chinese rules and regulations.
"The regulations treat both domestic and foreign enterprises the same, with no special rules aimed at foreign companies. All independent legal entities registered in China, including foreign enterprises and foreign equity joint ventures, can apply for road tests, as long as they meet the requirements of the regulations and other rules issued by local authorities," says Chen.
Earlier in December last year, Beijing traffic authorities gave the green light for road tests of self-driving cars, ordering that vehicles must pass a technical assessment before being permitted to run on public roads.
The Beijing regulations follow an incident in which Robin Li, founder of Chinese Internet giant Baidu, sparked controversy after test driving the company's autonomous vehicle on a public highway in the Chinese capital.
In March this year, Beijing issued temporary license plates for Baidu's driverless cars for public road testing.