11 July 2024

Beijing on Thursday became the first Chinese city to green-light the pilot commercial operation of self-driving passenger vehicles without anyone in the driver’s seat.

With safety supervisors in the front passenger seat, the first batch of 14 driverless cars received approval to hit the road under pilot commercial operation.

Companies including domestic internet giant Baidu and autonomous vehicle startup Pony.ai have received permits to test their unmanned vehicles on the road in Beijing’s demonstration zone for boosting the development of intelligent connected vehicles (ICVs).

Previously, safety supervisors were required to stay in the driver’s seats when the vehicles underwent road tests with passengers aboard.

A new regulation on driverless passenger vehicle road tests was also released by the municipal government, which further specifies entry requirements for operators involving mileage, the number of orders, safety, user reminders and mobile applications.

The regulation also improves the management requirements for self-driving vehicle operation. In terms of dealing with violations, the city is exploring a possible point-based management system to penalize the vehicle operators.
Beijing has entered the final stage of its study on policies related to self-driving vehicles in the demo zone. The safety supervisors are expected to help operate unmanned vehicles remotely in the future.

The city welcomes more proposals on innovations in technologies and business models from enterprises, said Kong Lei, director of the Beijing high-level autonomous driving demonstration zone office.

“In order to realize the safe operation of self-driving passenger vehicles without anyone in the driver’s seat, we made clear requirements for the tested enterprises involving the mileage of manned test, the number of orders, user feedback, and the usage of apps. This time we issued permits to two enterprises for them to carry out road tests and pilot commercial operation of self-driving passenger vehicles with an empty driver’s seat within the autonomous driving demonstration zone. That also means that within the 60-square-kilometer Beijing Economic-Technological Development Area, residents can take self-driving vehicles with no safety supervisors in the driver’s seat,” said Kong.