Driverless cars to be tested next year
AS SOMEONE who has driven the mean streets of Beijing for eight years, and has the nervous tics and grey hair to show for it, the idea of driverless cars in China is quite a comforting one.
The Xinhua news agency reported last week that China is planning to start testing driverless cars next year, sending unmanned vehicles from Beijing to neighbouring Tianjin.
In China’s answer to Google’s driverless car concept, the cars will use global positioning system (GPS), ultrasonic radar and various other sensors to navigate the 120km route.
Two years after that, the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) is planning a longer test drive from Beijing to the southern boomtown of Shenzhen, a distance of about 2,400km.
The NSFC has been working on the plan since 2008 and Zheng Nanning, the head of the research project and president of the Xi’an Jiaotong University, said China has made several technological breakthroughs since then.
However, he said China’s complex traffic system brings additional challenges to unmanned automobiles.
Some of the technology for driverless cars was developed with the aid of military technologies originally developed for combat use by the National University of Defence Technology(NUDT), a report in the China Daily said.
Dai Bin, a professor with the NUDT’s driverless car research team, believes driverless cars are safer, because they react faster than humans.
In July 2011, a driverless car developed by his team spent three hours and 20 minutes travelling about 286km on a motorway from Changsha to Wuhan.
“This car knew the speed limits, traffic patterns, lane changes and roads, and used video cameras and radar sensors to detect other cars,” Dai said.