China imposes safety guidelines on autonomous ‘robo-taxis’

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The world’s largest automotive market has laid down the law for companies operating autonomous vehicles.

Amid a raft of safety concerns and recalls regarding autonomous ‘robo-taxis’ in the US, China has implemented guidelines for the operation of driverless public transport – designed to reduce the risk of any incidents.

News agency Reuters reports China’s Ministry of Transport announced the safety guidelines earlier this week, which not only apply to autonomous vehicles used for public transport but also the freight industry.

The most important stipulation in the regulations will be the requirement for autonomous robo-taxis to be carrying at least one driver or ‘security inspector’ at all times – a significant point of difference between China and the US.

In the US, robo-taxi companies have been allowed to operate in certain states – such as California – with no company representative behind the steering wheel of their autonomous vehicles, meaning any dangerous incident could only be prevented by the car’s passengers.

One such incident involved a Cruise robo-taxi dragging an already-struck pedestrian down the road after first coming to a stop – which likely could have been if there was an operator behind its steering wheel.

According to Reuters, companies which use autonomous vehicles for public transport purposes will be required to be qualified and licensed, while car-makers are also allowed to work with their operations.

The guidelines are a part of China’s push to get more semi- and fully-autonomous vehicles on the roads, having last month announced approval for public road trials of connected vehicles as well as approving infrastructure upgrades for autonomous cars.

In Australia, the most recent trial of an autonomous public transport vehicle occurred across 12 months on the Gold Coast, where the Royal Automobile Club of Queensland (RACQ) and the City of Gold Coast deployed a ‘Smart Shuttle’ onto the streets.

The free service operated for free between 11am and 3pm, though a trained operator was in the shuttle at all times to ensure it was running safely.

Jordan Mulach is Canberra/Ngunnawal born, currently residing in Brisbane/Turrbal. Joining the Drive team in 2022, Jordan has previously worked for Auto Action, MotorsportM8, The Supercars Collective and TouringCarTimes, WhichCar, Wheels, Motor and Street Machine. Jordan is a self-described iRacing addict and can be found on weekends either behind the wheel of his Octavia RS or swearing at his ZH Fairlane.

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