TECH: China Bans Autonomous Vehicle Testing

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Autonomous cars are testing all over the world, but one country has decided it’s time to take a break. China which had previously embraced this technology has now banned them from testing on public roads.

China was quick to make it easy for developers to work on autonomous technology when it first hit the roads. There are lots of benefits to be had especially in a nation with terrible traffic congestion.

Autonomous vehicles like buses can help eliminate congestion and pollution. If those vehicles are also smart enough to identify traffic problems and pick alternate routes based on the path of least resistance, then even a car with a single passenger will cause fewer issues.

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It seems like a great plan and it probably still is, but China is putting on the brakes in the interest of safety. According to Automotive News Europe, the country has banned testing on public roads while it works with police and regulators to come up with a set of rules for how these vehicles should operate.

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology worked with the police to come up with a first draft of the rules, but it has yet to be finalized. Rather than let everyone continue testing until the new rules are official, they’re instead warning automakers not to test on public roads.

This could prove a huge setback to companies in the middle of testing their technologies. They need the feedback provided by real-world testing to perfect their systems and any moratorium on testing poses a problem.

It all comes down to safety, which has been increasingly questioned since several issues involving Tesla’s AutoPilot feature. A driver was killed when his Tesla failed to stop while it was in AutoPilot mode and several other accidents have been reported.

Tesla defends its technology saying the instructions for use indicate the drive needs to stay attentive and ready to take control at all times. That doesn’t mean people are actually following those directions.

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Chinese developers now have two things to worry about while the ban remains in effect. First, there’s the delay to their development schedules, but more importantly, there’s concern over the new rules.

Once the government reveals their regulations, there’s the possibility that it will have a significant impact on how testing is conducted in China. Developers are urging the government to act quickly, but no timeframe has been released as to when the new guidelines will be revealed.

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Nicole Wakelin

Nicole Wakelin