China launches self-driving car ride sharing pilot

Image copyright Shijiazhuang City Government Image caption Robots drive in semi-autonomous modes In a Chinese city, people can start to hail self-driving cars from an app. The initiative is part of a trial that…

China launches self-driving car ride sharing pilot

Image copyright Shijiazhuang City Government Image caption Robots drive in semi-autonomous modes

In a Chinese city, people can start to hail self-driving cars from an app.

The initiative is part of a trial that aims to give rides to people in mixed cities, such as a low-density city and a large industrial town.

Cars using the system have joined manned train services and bus services to share routes.

Self-driving cars, or Level 4 vehicles, have to recognise around 30,000 parameters such as traffic lights, turn signals and pedestrians.

See our comparison of self-driving cars here

The idea behind the pilot is to push autonomy technology to the forefront of urban transport. China is also testing autonomous driving in various cities, such as Chengdu and Shanghai.

Shijiazhuang is one of China’s biggest cities, and the company operating the test project, called Autonomous Telematics, says it will show how autonomous vehicles can be integrated into public transport systems, supporting both “emerging and established” partners, and create a network of new private businesses.

Image copyright Kato Image caption Rides will cost RMB 25 (about £3.30 / $4.50)

The system will be completely self-autonomous. The customer will simply tap their app on their smartphone, saying they want to board a car.

The vehicle will then take over navigating the route, so both parties won’t be involved in the actual driving.

The ride will be free for commuters, but customers will have to pay for the trip when the robot taxis start to run regularly.

Riders in semi-autonomous mode will only be allowed to get in the vehicle if they can unlock it themselves.

There are still plenty of questions to be answered about how the system will work when it is gradually rolled out, but the logic behind this can be seen in some of the smarter city schemes already up and running.

Mexico City, for example, is integrating autonomous vehicles into its traffic system and turning them into alternative transport.

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