Skip to Content
Smart cities

China Is Opening Up City Roads for Driverless Cars

December 18, 2017

Drivers in Beijing, beware: soon, you’ll be driving alongside autonomous vehicles.

On Monday, Beijing’s Municipal Commission of Transport announced (Chinese) provisional regulations for testing self-driving cars on city roads. Companies that are registered in China and have tested self-driving cars in enclosed spaces can now apply for permission to test their vehicles on Beijing’s bustling roads.

It certainly won't be the first city in Asia—or the rest of the world—to embrace autonomous vehicles: self-driving startup nuTonomy already operates in Singapore, and several U.S. cities are home to the cars of Uber, Waymo, and others. But the news is the latest sign of China’s commitment to making autonomous vehicles a reality, in hopes of alleviating congestion on city streets and becoming a leading technology power.

In addition to purchasing insurance for every vehicle, the regulation requires that firms place a human safety driver behind the wheel who can take control in unexpected situations. A committee made up of experts in transportation, telecommunications, automobiles, computer science, and law will evaluate the road-testing work.

China’s tech companies and carmakers have been waiting for this to happen. During an annual conference held by Baidu in November, the company’s CEO Robin Li said mass production of autonomous vehicles built using its Apollo platform will begin in 2018 (see "The Self-Driving Project That Could Help China Leapfrog the West.") Now it can test them where it matters.

Deep Dive

Smart cities

Rendering of Waterfront Toronto project
Rendering of Waterfront Toronto project

Toronto wants to kill the smart city forever

The city wants to get right what Sidewalk Labs got so wrong.

baidu worker (left) and autonomous vehicle driving on highway (right)
baidu worker (left) and autonomous vehicle driving on highway (right)

A day in the life of a Chinese robotaxi driver

We spoke to Liu Yang, who has one of the strangest jobs around: to sit in the passenger seat and monitor how self-driving cars cope with Beijing’s streets.

Terminal bi-articulated bus in Curitiba Brazil
Terminal bi-articulated bus in Curitiba Brazil

We need smarter cities, not “smart cities”

A singular focus on high-tech will dilute the vibrancy of our cities and limit their potential.

Marseilles surveillance cameras
Marseilles surveillance cameras

Marseille’s battle against the surveillance state

The boisterous, rebellious port city is trying to fight the growing ubiquity of policing cameras.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.