Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

China Sets Target for Self-Driving Cars to Encourage Development

  • China targets 10% of fully autonomous cars on roads by 2030
  • New-energy vehicle subsidies suspended after cheating scandal

China wants one in two vehicles on its roads to be equipped with computer-assisted driving features such as emergency braking and collision avoidance by the end of the decade, in an attempt to upgrade its auto industry and keep pace with international competition.

As part of its timeline, China will aim for 10 to 20 percent of vehicles to be highly autonomous by 2025, and for 10 percent of cars to be fully self-driving in 2030, according to transcript of comments made by Ouyang Minggao, leader of a group of experts commissioned by the auto industry regulator to draw up the targets, at a forum in Shanghai on Wednesday.

Government targets play an important role in China because the auto industry is dominated by state-owned companies, which hew to state initiatives such as developing new-energy vehicles. A state-defined timeline also provides impetus for automakers such as Chongqing Changan Automobile Co., which had been testing self-driving cars, and gives suppliers such as mapping company NavInfo Co. a prediction of demand for their products.

The targets on autonomous driving were part of a broader auto industry road map released by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology that also looked at promoting new-energy vehicles, connectivity, fuel economy and the use of lightweight materials.

Read about how driverless cars work.

“We hope the road map can help China to achieve a worldwide leadership in automated and connected vehicles in 10 to 15 years,” said Dai Yifan, a director at Tsinghua University’s Suzhou Automotive Research Institute, who was involved in the crafting of the road map.

Tax Cut

At the forum, organized by the state-backed Society of Automotive Engineers, MIIT official Qu Guochun said the ministry was looking at extending the tax cut on small-engine vehicles. The government cut the tax as demand waned and the auto association lobbied for state support, arguing that the industry is a linchpin of the world’s second-biggest economy.

The ministry “is working with related agencies to improve policies involving incentives for energy-saving and new-energy vehicles,” said Qu, a deputy director at MIIT’s industry equipment department, according to a transcript provided by the organizer. “We’re in the process of improving and adjusting policies including the extension of the tax cut for 1.6-liter energy-saving vehicles, and new-energy vehicle-related subsidies.”

An extension of the levy reduction in October 2015 to 5 percent from 10 percent would assuage concerns that auto sales will tank next year as consumers brought forth their purchases. The central government had stopped paying out financial incentives for new-energy vehicle purchases in the wake of a cheating scandal.

— With assistance by Yan Zhang

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