Date: 09/30/2019 – Author: Thomas Bott
Reading time: 4 minutes

When it comes to the future of mobility, there’s no way around autonomous driving. In the coming decades, almost every mode of transportation could operate without a person at the wheel. This shift ensures greater safety, eliminating human error and replacing it instead with the shorter reaction times of Artificial Intelligence and continual communication among vehicles. This also ensures more time for passengers to concentrate on other things instead. In traffic, for instance, passengers can work or use entertainment devices to pass the time.

 

The West continues to make headlines 

Regarding the technological developments being made for autonomous driving systems, manufacturers from the United States continue to dominate international headlines. Often cited are large and established companies active in the automotive and technology sectors, including the Alphabet subsidiary Waymo, which is already testing autonomous cars on public roads. General Motors, Tesla, and Apple are also testing their own systems. Meanwhile, in Europe, groups such as Volkswagen, Daimler, BMW, and Bosch are researching and developing their own systems.

China flies under the radar 

Though China often keeps its progress hidden from most of the world, this doesn’t mean it isn’t making strides in technological advances. In fact, the exact opposite is true — technology is advancing rapidly in the Middle Kingdom. This is in part to China being home to numerous large technology groups and many ambitious startups. What’s more, the government generously promotes all progress — creating the ideal conditions for growing projects. 

 

China takes test driving to the next level 

Baidu, the Chinese counterpart to Google, is one of the companies rather unknown in Europe and the United States. And, like the Americans, Baidu invests massively in technological innovations, including, for quite some time now, autonomous driving. Baidu reports vehicles equipped with its technology as already having covered more than 1.2 million miles in 13 cities at a highly automated level 4 (meaning no driver attention is required).

The transportation company DiDi is feeling the pressure of Baidu’s advancements and is eager to get their own self-driving vehicles on the road. In the Jiading district of Shanghai, the company initially wants to start trials with 30 level 4 autonomous taxis.

(© 2019 Getty Images)

Promising progress through co-operations 

Young companies often work in parallel to or even together with the bigger ones. Roadstar.ai from Shenzhen, China’s Silicon Valley, was able to secure capital of more than 125 million dollars just last year to push ahead with the development of autonomous driving systems. In Shenzhen, the start-up can also test their autonomous vehicles.

The company Pony.ai also received funding for its business plans of implementing the ride hailing principle with fully autonomous vehicles. Toyota is also on board, partnering with  Pony.ai and providing its Lexus RX as the test vehicle. Startups in particular are open with their developments, technology issues, and offer their codes for free use, working together in numerous co-operations.

 

Governments set needed framework 

In order for autonomous driving to be possible on public roads, legislation needs to be adapted. The Chinese government is rapidly pushing this legislation through to secure approvals for test drives. Bureaucratic routes can be shortened in the Far East if they serve progress. This is why more and more Western companies are choosing to put their technology on the road there. In Europe especially, such legislation to be made and ways to cleared for such advancements can take a while. In the USA it’s a bit faster — though often still slower than in China.

(© 2019 Getty Images)

Rapid growth expected in China

As the Chinese government works hand-in-hand with both large and small autonomous driving companies, technical progress in the country is rapid and and experts anticipate significant technological growth in the coming years. By 2025, 30 million vehicles are expected to be driving in China without a driver, and, as China continues its current focus of research on autonomy levels 4 and 5, it will continue to be an exciting hub for technological developments in autonomous driving in the coming years.