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China Is Testing More Driverless Cars Than Any Other Country

๐ŸŒˆ Abstract

The article discusses the rapid development of assisted driving systems and robot taxis, particularly in China, where the government is providing significant support and testing is being conducted on public roads. It also examines the challenges and safety concerns faced by other countries in the development of driverless car technology.

๐Ÿ™‹ Q&A

[01] Assisted Driving Systems and Robot Taxis in China

1. What is the status of the driverless car experiment in Wuhan, China?

  • Wuhan, a city in central China with 11 million people, 4.5 million cars, and busy streets, is the site of the world's largest experiment in driverless cars.
  • A fleet of 500 taxis navigated by computers, often with no safety drivers, is operating in Wuhan, and the company Baidu plans to add 1,000 more of these "robot taxis".

2. How is the Chinese government supporting the development of driverless cars?

  • The Chinese government is providing significant help to companies testing driverless vehicles, including designating on-road testing areas for robot taxis and limiting online discussion of safety incidents and crashes to restrain public fears.
  • Chinese cities have allowed companies to test driverless vehicles on public roads, and at least 19 Chinese automakers and their suppliers are competing to establish global leadership in the field.

3. What factors contribute to China's lead in the development of driverless cars?

  • China's strict and ever-tightening control of data, which prevents research conducted in China from leaving the country, making it difficult for foreign carmakers to use what they learn in China for cars sold elsewhere.
  • Chinese consumers' greater willingness to trust computers to guide their cars, as indicated by surveys.
  • The rapid adoption of battery electric cars in China, which work better with driverless technology than gasoline-powered or hybrid vehicles.

[02] Challenges and Caution in Other Countries

1. What safety issues have led to caution in other countries regarding driverless cars?

  • The Cruise robot taxi service of General Motors halted service in the U.S. after one of its cars hit and dragged a pedestrian, leading to the suspension of the company's state license in California.
  • Waymo, formerly Google's self-driving car division, has faced safety reviews by federal regulators in the U.S.
  • Japan suspended its test of driverless golf carts after one of them hit the pedal of a parked bicycle, though the testing later resumed.

2. How do the development approaches of China and other countries differ?

  • While China is moving aggressively with large-scale public road testing, companies and regulators in other countries have become more cautious about the safety of driverless car technology.
  • Ford and Volkswagen shut down their robot taxi joint venture, Argo AI, two years ago, though both companies are still developing advanced assisted driving systems.

3. What challenges do foreign automakers face in using data from China for their global operations?

  • China does not allow foreign companies to have direct access to high-resolution maps, which are crucial for driverless systems, and any research conducted in China is not allowed to leave the country.
  • This makes it difficult for foreign carmakers to use what they learn in China for cars sold in other countries.

[03] The Future of Driverless Cars

1. What are the forecasts for the adoption of driverless cars in China?

  • The China Society of Automotive Engineers forecasts that 20% of the cars sold in China in 2030 will be completely driverless and that another 70% will have advanced assisted driving technology.

2. How does the adoption of electric vehicles impact the development of driverless car technology?

  • Driverless technology works much better with battery electric cars than with gasoline-powered cars or most hybrid gasoline-electric cars, as electric motors can increase or decrease power with less lag and in more finely controlled increments.
  • In China, battery electric cars represent about 25% of the market, compared to 7% in the United States, which could give China an advantage in the development of driverless cars.

3. What are the concerns regarding the data collected by driverless cars?

  • The potential for tracking people and mapping sensitive locations using the data collected by the tiny cameras and laser systems on driverless cars has troubled security experts.
  • Europe and the United States still allow manufacturers to send driving data to China, but this may change, as the U.S. Commerce Secretary has indicated that the U.S. will propose rules to regulate cars electronically linked to China.
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