China Bans Highway Testing of Autonomous Cars Pending Regulation

  • Changan completed 1,200-mile self-driving car test in April
  • Carmakers competing in global race to develop driverless cars

China’s auto industry regulator said it’s working with police to formulate rules governing the testing of autonomous cars, warning automakers that they shouldn’t test their self-driving vehicles on highways before the regulations are released.

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and police have a preliminary draft of the rules, She Weizhen, head of the ministry’s autos department, said in a forum in Beijing. She didn’t give a detailed time frame on when the regulations will be finalized.

Governments around the world are balancing pressure from companies to encourage innovation in the field of autonomous driving without compromising safety standards. 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.

A moratorium on highway testing may set back efforts by companies aiming to introducing automated driving in China, as local testing allows them to take into account different traffic conditions, driving habits and signage. The field has come under increased scrutiny after the U.S. began investigating a fatal accident involving a Model S sedan driver using Tesla Motors Inc.’s Autopilot system in May.

Chongqing Changan Automobile Co. completed a 1,200-mile trip in April with a self-driving car that employed cameras and radar. The chairmen of Internet search provider Baidu Inc. and automaker Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co. in March urged the government to speed up the drafting of a legal framework for the technology.