On March 22, the Beijing Municipal Government issued its first batch of temporary license plates for autonomous vehicles to Baidu after completing series of procedures such as the closed field test, autonomous driving capacity assessment and expert reviews.
At Beijing’s autonomous vehicle road test launch event, Baosen Liu, deputy director of the Vehicle Management Office of the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau, awarded Baidu road test license plates for autonomous vehicles. Cheng Zhao, vice president of Baidu, attended the event and received the license plates.
At the launch event, the five Apollo autonomous vehicles that now have temporary license plates for road tests were shown to the media. These five cars have previously carried out public road tests on the open roads around Ezhuang in China’s central Shandong province.
Temporary license plates for autonomous vehicle road tests are divided into five levels, from T1 to T5. Baidu took the lead to get five T3 plates, which is the highest level issued to date.
Beijing has built the first closed autonomous vehicle test site in Haidian, a district of the municipality of Beijing and northwest of the urban core. The site covers more than 200 acres, includes numerous road types in cities and villages, and has rich test scenarios and multi-level evaluation systems. According to the accepted standards, a total of 33 roads spanning a cumulative length of 105 kilometers (65 miles) were decided as the roads for open testing. These roads are all in Beijing Economic and Technological Development Zone, Shunyi District and Haidian District.
In recent years, Beijing has continuously promoted autonomous vehicles. On Dec. 18, 2017, three departments including the Beijing Municipal Transportation Committee issued China’s first standardization of autonomous driving, titled “Guidance on the Acceleration of Autonomous Driving Road Test Related Work in Beijing (Trial)”. Only three months after this milestone in the automotive industry, Beijing today issued the first batch of temporary plates for autonomous vehicles to Baidu, which means that self-driving cars can officially proceed to open road testing.
Beijing stressed that while encouraging the innovation of autonomous vehicle technology, it is also necessary to ensure safety. To this end, the relevant departments in Beijing set up strict management regulations on autonomous vehicle road tests.
All autonomous vehicles applying for autonomous driving test license plates are required to pass tests on a closed site of more than 5,000 kilometers (3,107 miles). Also, these cars must satisfy a competency assessment, including compliance with traffic regulations, autonomous vehicle driving performance, and manual override in case of emergency. Only by obtaining this level of competence can the cars pass the safety technical examination to proceed to the open road. The test driver should be able to take over vehicle controls at any time during training, and the training should not be less than 50 hours. Before the open road test, the cars must pass an expert’s assessment and demonstration.
For the open road test, vehicles should install monitoring facilities and upload the data to ensure that the autonomous vehicles are tested in the regulated time on the specific roads, and they will be subject to supervision at any time.
Baidu said that security has been the foundation of Baidu’s Apollo open platform. Before the road test, Baidu’s Apollo autonomous vehicles go through simulation training, closed site training and open road training, ensuring the safety and stability to the maximum extent. Baidu will also strictly abide by the Beijing Road Test Management Regulations. Baidu has qualified test drivers in the autonomous vehicles during the tests.
The autonomous vehicle road test in Beijing is very strict. Autonomous vehicles that obtain the T3 level temporary plates for open roads should have comprehensive abilities such as cognition, traffic law compliance, route execution, emergency response and so on. Baidu’s Apollo open platform successfully passed this assessment to obtain the first batch of autonomous vehicle road test qualification.
Since 2013, Baidu has developed autonomous driving technology, and in July 2017, it released the Apollo autonomous driving platform. Baidu opened autonomous driving technology, data and resources to the entire industry and built an open ecosystem with sustainable innovation. In November 2017, China’s Ministry of Science and Technology announced the first batch of National New Generation AI Open Innovation Platforms, and relied on Baidu to build the autonomous driving platform. Baidu has partnerships with a number of domestic cities and car companies.