China is experiencing an automotive revolution. It’s rapidly become the world’s largest market for EVs and is pioneering driverless car technology; soon autonomous vehicles will even have dedicated highways in the country.
Driverless car technology faces many hurdles. Despite Elon Musk claiming they’re only a year or two away, most analysts urge both caution and patience. It still struggles to cope in difficult weather, often fails to recognise human beings who happen to be carrying something and rely on unpredictable road markings to manoeuvre. It’s that third problem that’s causing automakers a headache in particular; their ideas and concepts are dependent upon often outdated road infrastructure, that pre-dates the notion of a ‘driverless car’ altogether.
China believes the answer lies in dedicated highways. These will be constructed solely for the purpose of autonomous vehicles. Designed around their needs and technology, it’s hoped they’ll accelerate the development of the vehicles and their adoption amongst consumers. A 62-mile stretch of highway running between Beijing and Xiongan New Area will dedicate two lanes to the vehicles. In theory, this means they can be properly tested in real-world conditions without exposing drivers to needless risk. The road, and its dedicated highways, are expected to be fully constructed sometime next year.
The Way Forward?
Many countries are paying lip-service to autonomous driving technologies, but few are matching words with actions. The UK government has repeatedly suggested that it wants the country to be a ‘leader’ in the field, getting driverless cars on the road this year. But much of Britain’s roads are in a state of disrepair, having being constructed decades ago. This means automakers need to design their models in such a way that they can factor in these vulnerabilities and hurdles; no easy feat.
A critic might argue that for British politicians, driverless cars represent vanity project; a means of appearing ‘modern’ and ‘developed.’ China’s approach seems to be much more utilitarian. The government there perceives the benefits of the technology, but also the risks, and so is investing in a project that allows for both thorough testing and simultaneous adoption. In a country as vast as China, 62 miles of dedicated highways is a relatively minor project; but it’s (quite literally) a concrete commitment nonetheless. It’s also one that might just give the Asian powerhouse a critical lead over its western competitors…
Driverless Cars: Coming To UK Roads In 2019 – http://autoserve.co.uk/motoring-news/driverless-cars-coming-to-uk-roads-in-2019/
The Many Reasons Driverless Cars Don’t Exist Yet: https://www.autoserveclub.co.uk/blog/the-many-reasons-why-driverless-cars-dont-exist-yet/