China Allows Self-Driving Cars to Carry Passengers in Road Tests

Beijing has given the green light to road tests for self-driving cars carrying passengers, two years after the city became the first in China to allow autonomous vehicle companies to trial driverless cars in designated areas.

China-registered companies operating in the autonomous driving sector can now apply to test passenger transportation on Beijing roads that are not open to the public, according to a regulation issued last week by the city’s transport commission.

For safety reasons, test vehicles must have self-driving data recorders and an emergency system that allows a human being to manually override the automated driving system, the regulation stipulates.

Prospective “drivers” must have no record of traffic infringements or drink-driving, while volunteer passengers must be aware of the potential risks before taking part in the tests, according to the regulation. The companies must also buy personal accident insurance worth at least 1 million yuan ($142,898) for each volunteer.

Beijing is the second Chinese city to issue permits allowing autonomous vehicles to carry human passengers in road tests, after Shanghai unveiled a similar policy in September.

Last year, the Beijing municipal government granted temporary license plates to a total of 56 self-driving cars owned by eight companies, including tech giant Baidu and electric-car startup Nio. Those vehicles traveled a total of 153,600 kilometers during tests on Beijing’s roads that year, according to official data.

The capital first gave the nod to road tests of self-driving cars in September 2017, a few months after Baidu CEO Robin Li was fined for testing his company’s autonomous car on the city’s public roads.