Chongqing steps up robotaxi push with launch of 5G-enabled testing zone

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In this image from Chang’an, a company’s EV model Chang’an Eado is equipped with a L4 autonomous driving system and is running on the roads in the Xiantao Big Data Valley, Chongqing’s technology park. (Image credit: Chang’an)
In this image from Chang’an, the company’s L4 autonomous driving-enabled EV model, Eado, drives on a road in Xiantao Big Data Valley, a technology park. (Image credit: Chang’an)

Chongqing on Friday opened China’s first 5G-enabled pilot zone for testing autonomous vehicles (AV) in a suburban area of the southwestern Chinese city, which has been eager to launch highly automated robotaxi services with local automakers.

Why it matters: Chongqing’s pilot zone is the first open-road pilot testing ground for driverless vehicles, a critical next step in the development of the technology and its ability to navigate actual driving scenarios. City governments are increasingly allowing companies test AVs on public roads in an effort to support AV development. A number of local governments including Guangzhou and Changsha have refined regulations to allow AV companies to shuttle passengers and test vehicles on highways.

Details: Chongqing’s 5G networks now only cover a total area 4.3 kilometers in length in the north of the city, and local automaker Chang’an is the first car manufacturer piloting its driverless vehicles, Chinese media reported.

  • Chang’an is reportedly working on various functions for its Level 4 autonomous cars, including robotaxi and automated parking. The company has not revealed a timeframe for the launch of self-driving ride-hailing services in the city.
  • The automaker has partnered with FAW and Dongfeng Motors to launch a ride-hailing platform, T3, which began operating in the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing last week.
  • Chongqing is one of the first 18 Chinese cities licensed to build 5G pilot mobile networks with the country’s three mobile carriers along with Guangzhou, Nanjing, and Wuhan.

Context: Chinese municipal governments are racing against each other to lead AV development in response to the central government’s push to develop core technologies.

  • Changsha, a city in central Hunan Province, late last year built 21 base stations in collaboration with Huawei and China Mobile to equip the city’s closed pilot zone with 5G networks for autonomous tests in its Xiangjiang New Area. Around 200 kilometers of highway and urban roads equipped with 5G connection is under construction in the city and set to complete in September.
  • China has designated C-V2X (Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything), a wireless communication network linking vehicles, road infrastructure, and pedestrian devices, as its primary solution in the global race for smart vehicles and future mobility.
  • The deployment of high-speed, low-latency 5G networks enable self-driving cars to more accurately process information about surrounding environments, supporting the development of autonomous ride-hailing services in the country.