Shanghai has become the first Chinese city to issue road test licenses for autonomous trucks, with autonomous truck technology firm TuSimple being permitted to operate its vehicles on public roads. The company was awarded the license on October 16, according to local media.

In March, Shanghai issued its first batch of licenses for autonomous vehicle (AV) road tests to SAIC Motor, BMW and NIO. As of the end of September, AVs had driven over 15,000 kilometers on the city’s roads.

Shanghai’s Municipal Economic and Information Committee has said that no collisions have occurred in that time and testing has not affected traffic flow in the city.

TuSimple has operations in the US and China, with Chinese R&D centers in Beijing, Shanghai, and Hebei. The company has developed Level-4 driving technologies—fully autonomous within an “operational design domain (ODD),” therefore not covering every driving scenario.

The company has been working with Shaanxi Automotive and Sinotruck to provide driverless trucks to the Chinese market by 2019.

Shanghai’s city officials initially opened up 5.6 kilometers of public roads for testing but extended this to 37.2 kilometers in September. At the time over 90 companies had applied for licenses. Vehicles are currently being tested in Nanhui and Jiading Districts.

Driverless trucks have been the focus of increasing amounts of research in China. In September 2017, JD announced that it was cooperating with SAIC MAXUS and Dongfeng Motor Corporation to roll out driverless trucks with the Chinese government. Earlier this year, Dr. He Xiaofei, former president on the company’s research division, left to set up his own self-driving truck venture.

Just months later, in May, retail giant Suning announced that it had been testing autonomous trucks in Shanghai, albeit on private roads. The company said its vehicles have also reached Level-4 self-driving capabilities.

Christopher Udemans is TechNode's former Shanghai-based data and graphics reporter. He covered Chinese artificial intelligence, mobility, cleantech, and cybersecurity.

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