autonomous self driving car vehicle

While Didi’s new lab signifies it is getting into the global AI and self-driving technology game, it doesn’t mean its ride-hailing service is expanding into North America just yet. Source: Shutterstock/riopatuca

China’s new roadmap: A clear sign autonomous vehicles are going to be huge?

CHINA has a way of getting things done, and getting them done quickly.

In 2005, China laid out plans to prioritize the development and usage of renewable energy – now it boasts the world’s largest installations of solar and wind power after plowing record levels of investment into renewables, leaving other countries trailing behind.

Although China’s economy has slowed in recent years, it still has both the money and the manpower to take disruptive technologies and roll them out quicker than anyone else.

It seems this is exactly what the East Asian state wants to do in the case of self-driving cars, aiming to beat both the US. and other Asian nations to self-driving cars on the road.

SEE ALSO: TomTom’s Tomaso Grossi on the potential of self-driving technology in Asia

On Wednesday, China announced a detailed 450-page roadmap aimed at ensuring highly or fully autonomous vehicles are on sale in the country by 2021.

According to Reuters, the report details three distinct five-year periods to 2030 for the development of autonomous vehicles, with self-driving cars first hitting the market between 2021 and 2025.

The document, which was issued by the official Society of Automotive Engineers of China (SAEC), lays down detailed plans for every aspect of the automotive industry until 2030.

It also states that some form of automated or assisted driving should be in every car by 2026 to 2030.

“We must as quickly as possible form a common understanding on smart connected vehicle technology,” said the report, which was authored by the SAEC in conjunction with a government-sanctioned industry committee.

The new roadmap is a significant boost and suggests a wealth of opportunity for the autonomous vehicle industry as China is the world’s biggest automotive industry.

The report does not back one particular technology, but will be good news for Baidu,  which is developing the first self-driving car in China. China’s backing of autonomous consumer vehicles will no doubt provide further investor confidence to back companies like Baidu.

Baidu tested its self-driving car in Beijing last year and the car successfully navigated a 30 km route through the city.

However, there are challenges for self-driving cars in China. Autonomous vehicles require high-tech and extremely detailed mapping of a city and there is some information lacking in regards to extensive mapping in China.

Other countries, such as the United States and in Europe, have more advanced mapping in place and more advanced automotive technology available.

Google’s autonomous car, for example, has traversed more than 1.5 million miles since its programme started in 2009. The company expects to be selling its cars to customers by 2020.

Clean car giant Tesla has said this month that all new Tesla vehicles will be equipped with radar and cameras that will enable them to eventually drive autonomously – although they have run into tragic trouble with their self-driving technology.

SEE ALSO: China: Fatal Tesla car crash revealed by dashcam involved Autopilot function

Although the US appears to be beating China in the self-driving car race, some say it is lacking clear overarching policy in regards to self-driving cars, which could hold development back.

In the meantime, China is known for setting high targets and using money to overcome any potential barriers – it was recently reported China is to spend £80 million to launch a professional rugby league training one million players in five years – and it generally has a high success rate. Will it be any different with autonomous cars?

And who will benefit more from self-driving cars, which are expected to considerably reduce congestion and road traffic accidents, than the Chinese who have some of the most congested and deadly roads in the world. Road traffic accidents kill 200,000 people a year, according to the World Health Organisation in 2015.

So, can China dominate the autonomous vehicle industry in 2020? Quite possibly – just watch this space.