Road-test ban may set back self-driv­ing car

Au­tomak­ers call for reg­u­la­tions that will al­low real-world tests to take place in near fu­ture


Chongqing Changan Au­to­mo­bile Co, the Chi­nese au­tomaker that com­pleted a 1,931kilo­me­ter trek with a self­driv­ing car ear­lier this year, has post­poned public road tests in re­sponse to a reg­u­la­tory ban it said could im­pede ef­forts to de­velop au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles.

The joint ven­ture part­ner with Ford Mo­tor Co will try to sim­u­late real-world traf­fic con­di­tions in pri­vate test­ing yards and has sus­pended all road tests on public streets, said Liang Fenghua, the head of Changan’s in­tel­li­gent ve­hi­cle divi­sion.

China’s auto in­dus­try reg­u­la­tor said last week that it is work­ing with po­lice on rules gov­ern­ing au­ton­o­mous-car test­ing and warned au­tomak­ers against con­duct­ing public high­way tri­als be­fore the reg­u­la­tions are re­leased.

“We can make up for it if we don’t need to wait longer than a year,” Liang said by phone from Chongqing. “Even­tu­ally, the tests have to be car­ried out on real roads in large scale. Sim­u­la­tions are re­me­dial mea­sures we take to re­duce the im­pact as much as pos­si­ble, but can­not re­place real road tests.”

Changan joins Baidu Inc and Zhe­jiang Geely Hold­ing Group Co in urg­ing the govern­ment to speed up the draft­ing of a le­gal frame­work for tech­nol­ogy be­ing pur­sued world­wide to make roads safer. Car­mak­ers have em­pha­sized lo­cal road test­ing will be vi­tal to de­vel­op­ing cars ca­pa­ble of self-nav­i­gat­ing the com­plex traf­fic con­di­tions, driv­ing habits and road sig­nage as­so­ci­ated with the world’s largest auto mar­ket.

In the United States, the Na­tional High­way Traf­fic Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion’sMark Rosekind said last week that no in­ci­dent would de­rail ef­forts to Steve Man, im­prove road safety, with­out specif­i­cally men­tion­ing Tesla Mo­tors Inc. Theau­tomaker has con­tin­ued public beta test­ing of its Au­topi­lot sys­tem de­spite a fa­tal crash in­May.

“There needs to be a bal­ance,” said Steve Man, an auto an­a­lyst in Hong Kong with Bloomberg In­tel­li­gence. “If lo­cal com­pa­nies are barred from do­ing it at all, there’s a high risk for them to fall be­hind. It is of big con­cern to them.”

Changan’s 1,931-km au­ton­o­mous driv­ing trip from Chongqing to Bei­jing in April fol­lowed a sim­i­lar road test by Volvo on Bei­jing’s Sixth Ring Road last year. China’s self­driv­ing ve­hi­cle push has been part of a broader ini­tia­tive urg­ing man­u­fac­tur­ers to up­grade their tech­nol­ogy, as lower-cost coun­triese­merge­and­com­pete for labor-in­ten­sive fac­tory jobs.

The Min­istry of In­dus­try and In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy and the Min­istry of Public Se­cu­rity have a pre­lim­i­nary draft of the rules to govern test­ing of au­ton­o­mous cars, She Weizhen, head of the MIIT’s au­tos de­part­ment, said in a fo­rum in Bei­jing last week. With am­bi­tions to pro­duce highly au­to­mated ve­hi­cles by 2020, Changan will run more tests once reg­u­la­tions are fi­nal­ized to catch up with com­peti­tors, Liang said.

“I’m not op­ti­mistic about the rules com­ing out soon,” said Jia Xin­guang, an an­a­lyst with the China Au­to­mo­bile Deal­ers As­so­ci­a­tion.

If lo­cal com­pa­nies are barred from do­ing it at all, there’s a high risk for them to fall be­hind.”

an auto an­a­lyst in Hong Kong with Bloomberg In­tel­li­gence


A self-driv­ing car man­u­fac­tured by Chongqing Changan Au­to­mo­bile Co, a mod­i­fied ver­sion of its Rae­ton sedan, stands on dis­play as a tech­ni­cian fixes a sen­sor onto its roof at the Bei­jing In­ter­na­tional Au­to­mo­tive Ex­hi­bi­tion in Bei­jing in April.

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