Editor’s note: This was contributed by Jamie Manley, a former Program Associate at the Paulson Institute, a think-and-do tank focused on strengthening US-China relations and advancing sustainable economic growth in both countries. He can be contacted on LinkedIn or by adding jamiemanley on WeChat.

The race to develop autonomous vehicles is on. But how soon will self-driving cars actually become available? A motley crew of companies have joined in the race to find out, ranging from traditional auto manufacturing giants to small software startups. Perhaps the most interesting entrants are Chinese tech companies and auto manufacturers such as Baidu, Didi, BYD, and Tencent. These companies are not only planning to compete in the Chinese market but are using the transition to autonomous and electric vehicles as a chance to finally penetrate foreign auto markets.

The geopolitical implications of China’s international autonomous vehicle ambitions have received little attention, especially when compared to the potential effects autonomous vehicles could have on employment, road safety, and the automotive industry itself. But unlike other industries where Chinese companies have achieved international dominance, such as solar panels, autonomous vehicles could pose serious privacy and security issues.

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