China’s Self-Driving Cars – An Overview

Even thought the epicenter of autonomous car development is currently tightly in the hands of Americans, China started working diligently on bridging the gap. Not only are currently from the 52 entities with a license for testing autonomous vehicles on public roads in California almost a dozen from China or with Chinese founding teams, also in China itself the number of companies developing that technology keeps growing.

In his blog post  Fisher Shi describes the current state. Three cluster can be recognized: tech behemoths such as Baidu or Tencent, car manufacturers such as SAIC or Geely, and a whole range of startups.

Companies with self-driving car technology development efforts in China (C) Fisher Shi


Alone in the past year 29 million cars were sold, more than in the US, Japan, and India combined.

Of those companies in the above list, Baidu is the most advanced. The company also received the first test license from the Chinese government for testing autonomous vehicles in Beijing.

China is also diligently working on creating a legal framework for test drives. So far the Chinese government does not allow foreign companies to create navigation maps for Chinese roads. That is limited to Chinese companies.

Since it unveiled the open source software stack for autonomous cars code-named Apollo, Baidu has been able to assemble more than 80 industry partnerships.

Apollo Partners (C) Fisher Shi

But also ride sharing services such as Did and the technology company Tencent have received test licenses. And a series of car manufacturers, especially the electric vehicle companies, started working on self-driving car initiatives.

China’s government identified artificial intelligence – which is the main component for controlling self-driving cars – as a key technology for the country. This categorization will give companies in that space access to public investment and more flexible regulatory frameworks.

A more detailed breakdown of those Chinese efforts can be found here.

This article has also been published in German.

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