Driverless Trucks Approved for Public Roads in Chinese City
The city of Deqing has become the first in China to issue test permits for unmanned, self-driving trucks to operate on open roads.
Two licenses have been issued – one to e-commerce giant Alibaba, and the other to Inceptio Technology, a Shanghai autonomous logistics company that also has a base in Fremont, California.
Deqing is a city of 550,000 people in Zhejiang province, in the east of the country. Granting the permits would allow trucks defined as Level 4 by the Society of Automotive Engineers, where the vehicle is in control and does not require a human to intervene at any point, to be tested in designated areas in the city, including on some high-speed roads, without a safety driver present.
The truck Alibaba will use for the test is known as “Damanlv” and has been developed by the company’s DAMO Academy (Academy for Discovery, Adventure, Momentum and Outlook), a research institute tasked with developing core technology. Alibaba expects that Damanlv’s participation in the Deqing test can play a part in paving the way to more advanced automated driving.
“The road test license issued by Deqing will accelerate the R&D progress of our Level 4 unmanned trucks and help us promote automated driving to open roads and high-speed trunk lines,” said Chen Junbo, technical director at the Autonomous Driving Laboratory of DAMO Academy.
The permit is a significant breakthrough for Alibaba, which has been exploring automated driving in the logistics field since 2015. Two years ago, it launched a Level 4 delivery robot called Xiaomanlv via its delivery company Cainiao, which distributes parcels, food and fresh groceries to customers over the last 1.8 miles.
Alibaba already has some experience in open-road testing, having obtained an automated driving test license in Hangzhou, also in Zhejiang, in 2018.
Inceptio has also suggested it will use the driverless Deqing permit as a springboard to more advanced services before it embraces commercialization.
“Becoming the first company to obtain the Level 4 autonomous heavy-duty truck road testing permit in Deqing greatly recognizes Inceptio’s expertise in autonomous driving technology,” said Julian Ma, Inceptio’s founder and CEO. ”Inceptio will maximize this advantage to further advance its leadership in technology and products and contribute new breakthroughs to China’s autonomous driving industry.”
Last year, Inceptio completed China’s first Level 4 driverless heavy-duty truck test on a closed highway in Laiwu, a district of Jinan in the eastern province of Shandong. Inceptio says its trucks successfully handled a wide range of highway scenarios and traffic flow without any human intervention.