July 14, 2024
Electric & Hybrid Cars

China’s urban areas witness a surge in robot cars

Thanks to the strong support of the Chinese government — and the willingness of China’s drivers to embrace autonomous technology — a bold experiment to deploy self-driving cars on bustling city streets is currently underway in China.

In Wuhan, a city with a population of 11 million and over four million vehicles, a fleet of 500 driverless taxis, operated by computers and often without human backup drivers, can be seen navigating the streets. Wuhan is just one of the many Chinese cities where testing of autonomous vehicles on public roads is permitted.

A recent report by The New York Times has revealed China’s leading role in advancing autonomous technology, not only to showcase its technological capabilities on a global scale, but also to support its vital local automotive industry.

Unlike in the United States, where safety concerns have hindered the deployment of self-driving taxis — leading Ford and Volkswagen to shut down their joint venture, Argo AI, two years ago — surveys by J.D. Power, as cited by the Times, indicate that Chinese drivers are more open to trusting autonomous systems to drive their cars.

The report also highlights the Chinese government’s use of censorship to downplay discussions on accidents and safety issues involving autonomous vehicles, in order to prevent public criticism.

Recently, on June 4, the Times reported that Beijing granted authorization to nine Chinese automakers — including Nio, BYD, and SAIC Motor — to conduct tests on advanced driver-assist systems surpassing Tesla’s Full Self-Driving technology. Additionally, the China Society of Automotive Engineers predicts that by 2030, 20% of cars sold in China will be fully autonomous, with another 70% equipped with advanced driver-assist features.

China holds an advantage in this arena as electric vehicles account for about 25% of the market, compared to 7% in the US. The report notes that “driverless technology aligns better with battery electric vehicles than traditional gasoline-powered cars or most hybrid models.”

According to Times journalist Keith Bradsher, data transfer poses another challenge in the realm of autonomous driving. He states, “Chinese companies establish key research facilities in the US and Europe, but the findings are repatriated to China. Consequently, foreign automakers face obstacles in utilizing insights gained in China for vehicles marketed in other regions.”


1. What is the status of autonomous vehicle testing in China?

Testing of autonomous vehicles on public roads is permitted in several Chinese cities, with Wuhan being one of the prominent locations where driverless taxis are in operation.

2. How do Chinese drivers compare to American drivers in terms of trust in autonomous technology?

Surveys suggest that Chinese drivers are more willing to trust autonomous systems to operate their vehicles compared to their American counterparts.


China’s advancements in autonomous technology and the widespread acceptance of self-driving vehicles among Chinese drivers underscore the country’s leadership in this field. As China continues to drive innovation and push boundaries in autonomous driving, it sets a compelling example for the global automotive industry.

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