China Works on Autonomous Driving Standards Amid Safety Scrutiny

  • Government-linked research group working on various protocols
  • Standards ‘won’t come out soon,’ research group official says

China is formulating policies for autonomous driving that will set the technical standards for automakers and parts suppliers amid growing scrutiny on the safety of self-driving vehicles.

“We have an intelligence and networking team that is pushing forward the standards in autonomous driving,” said Hou Fushen, deputy secretary general of the government-linked Society of Automotive Engineers of China, which is undertaking the project on its own accord. “There will be a series of standards on communication protocol, data platform and so forth. We are working on it but it won’t come out soon.”

The group’s initiative is part of parallel efforts by government, industry and scientific bodies to create a regulatory framework as various companies race to bring to market self-piloting cars. Governments around the world are under pressure to ensure they are encouraging innovation in the field of autonomous driving without compromising their safety standards.

For a QuickTake explainer on the state of autonomous driving developments

U.S. regulators are investigating a fatal accident involving a Tesla Motors Inc. sedan that was driving on autopilot, drawing criticism from groups that have lobbied for stronger safety rules. While the company calls the self-driving feature experimental, it’s been installed on all 70,000 of its cars since October 2014.

In China, the push for self-driving vehicles is also part of a broader state initiative urging manufacturers to upgrade their technology as lower-cost countries emerge and compete for labor-intensive factory jobs.

Changan Automobile Group completed a 1,200-mile trip for a self-driving test car on public roads this year, underscoring its amibitions to produce highly automated vehicles by 2020. BAIC and Internet giant Baidu Inc. are among other Chinese companies that have ambitions to develop cars that can pilot themselves with minimal or no human intervention.

— With assistance by Yan Zhang

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