China’s push for vehicle automation calls for changes in the law

Date: Wednesday July 19, 2017

While limited testing is now underway, China still lags behind in the driverless race

In support of the official directive outlined in the country’s 13th Five-Year Plan and “Made in China 2025” policies on June 23, the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) released the Draft Guidelines on the National Intelligent and Connected Vehicle Industry Standard to solicit public and industry feedback. The new draft laid out China’s two-phase plan to establish the ICV market.

By 2020, a framework comprising of over 30 industry standards related to assisted and low-level automated driving is to be established.

By 2025, over 100 standards designed for highly autonomous vehicles will be released. These standards will cover the technical requirements and evaluation methods of

  • intelligent and automatic control,
  • collaborative decision-making technology and
  • the function and performance of autonomous cars under typical circumstances.

As a result, the MIIT predicts 4 million L4 and L5 vehicles will be on the road by 2030.

The release of the official guideline is in line with the increasing activities in autonomous vehicle testings. To that purpose, the National Intelligent Connected Vehicle Pilot Zone in Shanghai is to be extended to include 73 km of public roads by the end of 2017. For public road testing, a quota of 1000 cars has been set.

Today the zone is restricted to 3.6 km of test roads. The test area includes infrastructures such as boulevards, tunnels, traffic circles, intersections, gas stations, and parking lots. Different types of traffic conditions can be simulated inside the zone.

The area is also covered with CCTV for external monitoring and Wi-Fi for real-time data transmission. Together, they support over 50 types of Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X) communications simulations, taking many circumstantial elements into account. Since its opening in 2016, the pilot zone has been used by OEMs and Tier ones such as Ford, BMW, Volvo, SAIC, and Delphi.

The Kunlun Plan, an initiative to build a database of virtual traffic scenarios for ICV was launched in Shanghai on June 6. It gathered datasets from private sector, government agencies, and academic sources. Such database is crucial to create simulated scenarios to develop automation technology as well as related road policies. The simulation platform will incorporate road accident analysis using over 500,000 km of driving data – conventional and assisted-, traffic flow and roadside information.

Evidently, China wants to be seen as taking actions towards their published ambition of 70%* of new car sales being autonomous (L2 to L4) by 2030. However, the guideline published by MIIT is not solving the legal vacuum around maps, connectivity and precise positioning. Worse, the CEO of Baidu, one of the most active Chinese company in AVs research and development, has been very publicly put under investigation after he was shown to be in a car during an autonomous car test on Beijing roads.

MIIT has been reported to be working with the Ministry of Transport to accelerate interdepartmental decision making and to push for the establishment of the legal framework for Autonomous Vehicles in China. But there is no clear timetable in legislation.

We forecasted in the AV Global Study that the Chinese AV (L2 to L4) market would generate 25 million new car sales by 2030 but without a regulatory green light, China’s ambitions will never catch up today’s delays.

Written by Sofie Chen

* as declared by MIIT and the National Manufacturing Strategy Advisory Committee