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China Makes Life Harder for Foreign Self-Driving Cars


China fears that driverless cars’s cameras are a national security risk, and it is preventing foreign companies from using them (in the picture, a self-driving system on a Baidu car)

China is making it  harder for foreign companies to test driverless vehicles on the country’s roads, as authorities fear that self-driving cars could be collecting information and images for espionage.

While on-road testing is not yet allowed in China, new regulation expected to come out early next year is expected to include such restrictions.

The Financial Times reported that non-Chinese companies willing to trial  their self driving cars in China complained about restrictions on the use of cars fitted with high-resolution cameras and GPS, with Beijing mentioning national security reasons behind the constraints.

On the contrary, Chinese carmakers and tech-companies such as Baidu— which also runs self-driving car tests— are not facing such curbs.

“We have some obstacles related to testing of automated functionalities, but this is a delicate thing,” a spokesperson for a car manufacturer told the FT. “We have obstacles driving around China making photos and recording GPS co-ordinates.”

The limitations jibe with China’s previous measures on accurate GPS technology— whose use is restricted to Chinese firms only. As of now, foreign companies testing self-driving cars in China have to work with one of 13 Chinese companies specialised in high-definition mapping, including Baidu and Alibaba-owned AutoNavi.

What is new is that high-resolution cameras, Lidar sensors, and other essential technical components of self-driving tech seem now bound to be similarly affected. This will inevitably end up favouring domestic companies over non-Chinese self-driving vehicles.

An industrial plan launched in 2015 set out China’s expectation that 80 percent of the domestic market for HD cameras and self-driving car radars will be dominated by local firms by 2025.

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