China’s biggest automaker SAIC Motor has proposed supportive regulations for highly autonomous vehicles among other rules on the sidelines of the country’s annual political event in Beijing on Wednesday.

Why it matters: China’s largest annual political gathering of legislative delegates and political advisers, known as the “two sessions” or “lianghui,” kicked off on Thursday. The suggestions from the country’s top automaker could shed a light on the government road map for AV adoption in the coming year.

Details: SAIC, manufacturing partner to Volkswagen and GM’s, urged the central government to pass legislation that will allow the road testing of Level 3 and above self-driving cars on Chinese highways first in certain areas and then nationwide, Chen Hong, president of SAIC wrote in a proposal (in Chinese).

  • Chen is a member of the Communist Party of China and delegate to the National People’s Congress.
  • He also called for piloting passenger and freight delivery services using self-driving cars without safety drivers behind the wheels in some “developed areas” including two Shanghai suburbs.
  • SAIC has so far invested in five Chinese AV startups, including AutoX which is about to launch its robotaxi pilot project in the northwestern Jiading district of Shanghai around the end of this month, along with ride-hailing giant Didi.

Robotrucks: The Shanghai-based automaker is also eyeing the adoption of AV in the traditional logistics industry.

  • It has claimed that its first autonomous rig has begun transporting containers at the city’s Yangshan Port.
  • The company on Wednesday expected its robotruck fleet to transport 20,000 containers this year with more than 1,000 autonomous trucks to be commercially deployed over the next three to five years.

Context: Top executives of Chinese auto majors have brought proposals ranging from intelligent cars to vehicle electrification in bid to buck the downward trend in the Chinese markets and drive a new auto technology boom.

  • Wang Fengying, president of Great Wall Motors proposed to re-provide subsidies to boost development of small-sized electric vehicles. Great Wall Motors in 2018 partnered with BMW to jointly manufacture the electric models of the famous Mini car brand as early as next year.
  • Most small-sized EVs, normally with a short driving range, had been deprived from the government incentive plans when Beijing in 2018 raised the minimum requirement for EVs to a range of above 150 kilometers (94 miles). The threshold was further raised to 300 km in the latest subsidies scheme.

Jill Shen

Jill Shen is Shanghai-based technology reporter. She covers Chinese mobility, autonomous vehicles, and electric cars. Connect with her via e-mail: jill.shen@technode.com or Twitter: @yushan_shen