Robotaxi developers cheer as Shenzhen accelerates China’s driverless car dreams

#SootinClaimon.Com : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation.

On a busy downtown street in the Chinese city of Shenzhen, a taxi moves without a driver, navigating among jaywalkers and haphazard traffic.

Robotaxi developers cheer as Shenzhen accelerates China's driverless car dreams

The steering wheel turns itself a notch and the vehicle slows to a gentle halt, while the safety driver looks on from the passenger seat. The vehicle is one of a hundred sensor-laden robotaxis belonging to start-up cruising Shenzhen’s dense central business district Futian, giving 50,000 trial rides to passengers in the last year.

Shenzhen, a city of 18 million, has now brought in China’s clearest autonomous vehicle (AV) regulations. From Monday (August 1) registered AVs will be allowed to operate without a driver in the driving seat across a broad swathe of the city, but a driver must still be present in the vehicle.

Maxwell Zhou, the chief executive officer of self-driving technology company DeepRoute, welcomed the move and said it would assist in collecting data and developing driving algorithms.

But Zhou also said that having more vehicles on the road would potentially lead to more accidents, and added the new regulations would be important in achieving mass deployment eventually.

So far, Chinese cities like Guangzhou and Beijing have allowed robotaxis to operate on a more limited basis with the permission of local authorities, but Shenzhen’s regulations provide a crucial framework for liability in the event of an accident.

If an autonomous vehicle (AV) has a driver behind the wheel, the driver will be liable for an accident. If the car is completely driverless, the owner of the vehicle will be responsible, unless the vehicle is defective.

However, in a city with a state-owned fleet of 22,000 electric taxis from Shenzhen-based BYD, where a 20 km (12 miles) trip costs about 60 yuan ($8.90), production costs for AVs will need to come down before robotaxis are commercially viable, Zhou said.

Deeproute and other robotaxi companies like Whale Dynamic are banking on mass production to lower costs and make the mainstream use of AVs a reality.

“We have a battery supplier, we have the sensors, we have most of the integration, we can do beautifully in Shenzhen,” said Whale Dynamic’s CEO and founder David Chang, adding production costs were only a third of what they would be in the United States.

“But the revenue is one-twelfths to California, so that may not be a fancy business to do,” he said.

While Shenzhen’s supply chain and lower costs give it a major production advantage over competitors based around Silicon Valley, Chang does not want to be constrained to one market.

“As a company with international vision, we don’t want to shrink ourselves into a well and fight with other frogs… we want to jump out (of) the well.”

Published : August 01, 2022

By : Reuters

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