Shanghai Issues China’s First Autonomous Vehicle Licence to Carry Passengers

Shanghai becomes the first Chinese city for autonomous vehicles as the local authorities last week issued licenses for operational tests of smart and connected cars with passengers in them. With this clearance, there is no doubt that it would open the way for commercial robotaxis in years to come.

According to local government officials, the car-hailing ride service Didi Chuxing, along with car manufacturer SAIC Motor and BMW have been granted to conduct autonomous driving projects in real urban scenarios in Shanghai’s Jiading district. For this pilot programs, each of the three companies are permitted to run 50 vehicles including robotaxis, unmanned deliveries, and other self-driving services. After the 6 months, the license holders can increase the number of test vehicles if there are no traffic violations.

First time in March 2018, Shanghai issued the country’s first licenses on autonomous vehicle tests to SAIC and EV maker Nio, which allows only company employees to ride in the vehicles during tests. But this time, the city permitted vehicles that will carry passengers and transport goods. However, a human driver will also be onboard to take over according to the situation. For this ride, there will be no charge for qualified passengers aged 18 to 70, for whom service providers are required to offer insurance.

Boosting Efforts to Autonomous Driving 

To date, Shanghai has unbolted 53.6 kilometers of roads to autonomous cars that are around one-sixth the size of Jiading district, a total area of 65 square kilometers. Additionally, the test library of urban scenarios has been escalated almost five-fold to 1,580, including navigating in industrial zones, business centers, residential areas, and subway stations.

According to BMW, China has the most complicated traffic scenarios in the world, so the BMW Group’s automated driving R&D in China has become a significant part of autonomous driving development worldwide. The German carmaker has deployed nearly 100 autonomous driving R&D teams in Shanghai and Beijing. They focus on the development and validation of automated driving function based on typical traffic scenarios of the country.

Meanwhile, Didi expects to run its robotaxis in three Chinese cities – Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen – by 2020. Furthermore, the company also aims to introduce the service outside the country in the following year.

China to Become the World’s Largest Market for AVs 

Considering market reports, China – the world’s most populous country – has the potential to lead the world autonomous vehicles market that will drive the country’s automotive industry into the passing lane. As the nation continues to bring advancements in technology, McKinsey expected that the mass adoption in China for highly autonomous vehicles will start around 2027 and they could account for 66 percent of the passenger-kilometers travelled by 2040. That will generate $1.1 trillion market revenue from mobility services.