Written by 14:02 Business

Driverless Cars in China: How Safe Are They?

Images of the burned vehicle flew through the Chinese internet: An Aito M7 Plus electric sport utility vehicle, operated by an advanced assisted driving system, had crashed on a highway in Shanxi Province on April 26.

A woman who said her husband, brother and son had been killed posted videos online and pleaded for an investigation. All of her postings soon vanished, and she said she would not discuss it further.

A Chinese business news outlet published a lengthy online investigation that questioned the safety of assisted driving systems. But that soon disappeared, too.

State-run national media refrained from covering the crash for nine days after it happened. Then they posted a statement from Aito Car, a Chinese brand, that disavowed responsibility. The statement said that the car’s automated braking system had been designed for speeds up to 53 miles an hour, but the car was going 71 when it hit the back of a road maintenance vehicle.

In the United States, a similar crash would probably have attracted considerable attention and possibly government or legal scrutiny. The main companies using computer-guided driving technology in the United States — Tesla, Waymo and Cruise — have all been subjects of high-profile safety investigations.

Waymo, which was started as Google’s self-driving division, has been testing driverless cars in Phoenix but faces a review by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. General Motors has resumed testing its Cruise robot taxis in Phoenix, after one of them in San Francisco dragged a pedestrian who had been knocked into its path by a human-driven car.

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Last modified: 15 June 2024
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