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China explores self-driving cars in Guangzhou | Source: Pexels

Guangzhou becomes test-bed for self-driving cars

THE southern Chinese city of Guangzhou has opened some of its roads to government-approved testing of self-driving cars on public streets.

Last week, Chinese start-ups, Jingchi and, were offering rides to the public for the first time in what is seen as a part-publicity stunt and part-effort to gain test miles on their self-driving cars. These efforts, reported The Financial Times, are being made in a bid to better compete with China’s US competitors.

So far, most read testing for China’s autonomous auto industry has been conducted in California. However, China wants to compete with US companies who are racing ahead with on-road testing of their self-driving technology which is crucial for training artificial intelligence software to drive. For example, Google’s autonomous driving arm has passed four million test miles in four states since 2009.

But the country is starting to boost testing on its own streets. Beijing accepted applications for legal tests in the perimeter of the city on Dec 15, and started tests thereafter.

National leader in self-driving technology, Baidu has previously tested its cars near its Beijing headquarters without explicit government permission. The company also tests in California, but recently begin testing in Nansha, a district of Guangzhou.

Jingchi has also launched a similar three-month pilot project for highly autonomous vehicles in a different part of Guangzhou, known as Biotech Island.

The city of Guangzhou has become the hot-spot for self-driving car development. In September 2017, China’s Tencent Holdings and Guangzhou Automobile Group Company Ltd, which is headquartered in the city, agreed to collaborate on Internet-connected cars.

The companies said they will work together to develop Internet-connected cars and artificial intelligence-aided driving. Guangzhou Automobile is also in talks with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV to deepen their relationship in China.

As the competition to develop a road-safe and internationally approved self-driving car heats up, expect to see more public road testing, in China and other parts of the world.