The fu­ture be­longs to in­tel­li­gent ve­hi­cles

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - VIEWS - Li Shengbo, an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor at the Depart­ment of Au­to­mo­tive Engi­neer­ing, Ts­inghua Univer­sity Wang Lin, di­rec­tor of lit­i­ga­tion law fac­ulty, Law School of Hainan Univer­sity Gu Da­song, an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of School of Law, South­east Univer­sity

Robin Li, the chair­man of China’s largest search en­gine Baidu livestreamed him­self rid­ing in what he claimed was his com­pany’s first driver­less car on Bei­jing’s Fifth Ring Road on July 5, spark­ing a pub­lic de­bate on traf­fic reg­u­la­tions. There is no law or reg­u­la­tion on driver­less cars, and traf­fic po­lice said they are in­ves­ti­gat­ing the case. Three ex­perts share their views on the sub­ject with China Daily’s Wu Zheyu. Ex­cerpts fol­low:

Although the United States Na­tional High­way Traf­fic Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion has a broader def­i­ni­tion for in­tel­li­gent ve­hi­cles, which is ac­cepted by many coun­tries, cars as a whole can be clas­si­fied into five grades. If a man­u­ally driven car is grade 0, a fully selfdriv­ing car will be grade 4.

A grade-4 car should have a per­fect com­bi­na­tion of en­vi­ron­men­tal per­cep­tion, de­ci­sion-mak­ing and au­to­matic con­trol. For ex­am­ple, Google’s driver­less car, which many are fa­mil­iar with, could self-drive only on spe­cial roads such as the Fourth and Fifth Ring Roads in Bei­jing, so it should be clas­si­fied as grade 3. The­o­ret­i­cally, a self-driv­ing car should not need a hu­man driver.

In­tel­li­gent car tech­nol­ogy is be­ing de­vel­oped to im­prove road safety. Stud­ies show many ac­ci­dents are caused by driv­ers’ neg­li­gence, and in­tel­li­gent ve­hi­cles can help achieve har­mony among mo­torists, cars and road.

Grade 1 and 2 in­tel­li­gent ve­hi­cles have al­ready achieved in­dus­tri­al­iza­tion. In fact, Google plans to launch its driver­less car in 2018, with Gen­eral Elec­tric and BMW fol­low­ing in 2020. Chi­nese com­pa­nies, on the other hand, plan to launch grade 3 ve­hi­cles be­tween 2020 and 2025.

As the In­sti­tute of Elec­tri­cal and Elec­tronic Engi­neers es­ti­mates,

self-driv­ing cars will have about 75 per­cent of the au­to­mo­bile mar­ket by 2040 and thus change the cur­rent road trans­port mode.

That Robin Li, founder and CEO of Baidu, could livestream him­self trav­el­ing in a driver­less car re­flects so­ci­ety as a whole wel­comes the de­vel­op­ment of new tech­nolo­gies. But de­spite that, the au­thor­i­ties have to de­ter­mine whether or not Li vi­o­lated any traf­fic rules.

Although Li later ex­plained that his fel­low pas­sen­ger was ac­tu­ally oc­cu­py­ing the “driver’s seat”, con­duct­ing self-driv­ing car tests in cities such as Bei­jing can be very risky — to those rid­ing in the driver­less cars as well as pedes­tri­ans and the driv­ers of other ve­hi­cles.

As mem­bers of the Chi­nese Peo­ple’s Po­lit­i­cal Con­sul­ta­tive Con­fer­ence, Robin Li, and Li Shufu have sub­mit­ted pro­pos­als to the CPPCC Na­tional Com­mit­tee seek­ing leg­is­la­tion on self-driv­ing cars, which the au­thor­i­ties should con­sider se­ri­ously.

The good news is that the e-zone for self-driv­ing cars in the Na­tional In­tel­li­gent Con­nected Ve­hi­cle Test­ing Demon­stra­tion Base in Shang­hai has been open to pub­lic since July. Ap­proved by the Min­istry of In­dus­try and In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy in June 2015, the e-zone will act as an in­cu­ba­tor for in­no­va­tive in­tel­li­gent ve­hi­cles. Com­pa­nies that want to launch their in­tel­li­gent ve­hi­cles in the mar­ket can con­duct dif­fer­ent types of tests in the e-zone. More such fa­cil­i­ties and spe­cific reg­u­la­tions on in­tel­li­gent ve­hi­cles are needed to boost the de­vel­op­ment of self-driv­ing cars.

Since Baidu did not seek prior per­mis­sion to con­duct a trial run of its driver­less car, it should be held ac­count­able for its ac­tion. Since there are no reg­u­la­tions on even the fun­da­men­tal as­pects of de­vel­op­ing self-driv­ing cars, the au­thor­i­ties should at least stan­dard­ize one as­pect of the process: only com­pa­nies that ob­tain prior per­mits can con­duct such tests. And for that, spe­cific traf­fic lanes have to be de­signed and spe­cial road signs put up.

The big­gest con­cern of al­low­ing self-driv­ing cars on the road is: How to rule out the sys­tem­atic risks? An in­tel­li­gent car may be ab­so­lutely prob­lem free when it leaves the fac­tory, but since it runs on tele­com tech­nol­ogy and GPS, a hacker can trans­form it into a po­ten­tial threat. In such a case, who will be re­spon­si­ble for the con­se­quences?

This might be a cru­cial chal­lenge while draft­ing laws and rules on in­tel­li­gent cars.

LI MIN / CHINA DAILY

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