Self-driving licenses are a reality! No, dear reader, that doesn’t mean you can apply for one and start looking forward to boozy nights out on the town without needing to take a Didi ride home. But it’s a step toward that eventuality: Guangzhou today issued the first batch of licenses for self-driving – also known as autonomous driving – to six companies. They can now take their 24 licensed vehicles out onto the city’s streets to run further tests – in live traffic.
Self-driving startup WeRide and its parent company JingChi Technology are apparently way ahead in the highly competitive field. WeRide got 20 of the licenses, while the other four were shared by Pony.ai, AutoX, DeepBlue, and state-owned Guangzhou Automobile Group.
WeRide is now second nationwide to Beijing-based Baidu, which owns 51 licenses. Its Guangdong competitors also have licenses elsewhere: Guangzhou Automobile Group in Chongqing, Pony.ai in Beijing, and AutoX in Zhaoqing. Guangzhou now ranks second behind Beijing in the number of self-driving licenses issued.
The Guangzhou government didn’t just fence off a quiet corner of the city for these tests. It has cleared no fewer than 33 roads for test-driving, amounting more than 45 km. These are in the Huangpu, Baiyun, Huadu and Nansha districts.
It is expected that Guangzhou eventually will issue more than 200 self-driving licenses, allowing autonomous cars to be used on more than 200km of open roads in the city. It goes without saying that Guangzhou has been focused on supporting and developing the industry. It has not, however, been hands-on. The Guangzhou Smart Network Vehicle Demonstration Zone is run by an independent third-party organization responsible for the application, daily management, and evaluation of the test-driving of autonomous cars.
Officials were quoted by local media as saying the government will “adjust and expand” the parameters for test-driving the autonomous vehicles, aiming to build a leading ecosystem for smart vehicles and develop the city as a “national smart transportation demonstration zone”.
Read more in Chinese.