We might be a little way off global adoption of self-driving and autonomous cars but it is becoming apparent that tech giants are gearing us towards that future.
Companies such as Google, Tesla and Uber are pouring millions of dollars into perfecting the technology so that it can be used safely on roads that are also used by pedestrians and people operated vehicles.
China, often at the forefront of the world’s most exciting and innovative tech, is aiming for smart vehicles to account for half of all new cars sold at home by 2020, and for 90 per cent of motorways in big cities to support vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications, according to a plan by the National Development and Reform Commission, the country’s top economic planning agency.
In a move that reflects these targets, China has dedicated a mountainous stretch of highway in eastern Shandong province for testing connected, self-driving vehicles.
As reported by South China Morning Post which quotes the official Xinhua News Agency, Qilu Transportation Development Group claimed a 26-kilometre-long (16 miles) highway for autonomous driving and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication.
The project will see the group partner with tech giants Huawei Technologies and China Mobile, one of the country’s largest telecommunications network operators.
The report states that the mountain highway will be a testing ground for different scenarios — three tunnels, one bridge and three toll stations have been built to replicate real-life situations.
Additionally, equipment that can communicate with self-driving vehicles including road sensors, weather monitoring, traffic signs and panoramic video surveillance has been tested and installed along the highway.
According to the report, the project also has “plans to build a world-class testing, research and development centre and incubator for driverless vehicles by 2023.”
It will also offer information to help set relevant standards on autonomous cars and smart transport.
When it comes to self-driving cars and public road-testing, China is in direct competition with the US.
However, the report posits that China may have a competitive advantage “should it put its weight behind open-road testing given the country’s vast infrastructure construction.”
Furthermore, Chinese companies are investing heavily in autonomous driving.
In April, Huawei and 13 of China’s leading carmakers, including SAIC and BYD, issued a cellular vehicle-to-anything (C-V2X) road map.
And last year, Baidu, one of the largest AI and internet companies in the world introduced a service that enables cars to interact with roads and traffic lights powered by sensors and computer vision technology.