It’s the first time GM has been allowed to run highly automated vehicles on public roads in the country’s designated test zones

Graham Hope

August 25, 2023

3 Min Read
General Motors

General Motors has been granted approval from local authorities in Shanghai to test its Level 4 autonomous vehicles (AVs) there.

The company confirmed the breakthrough on its Chinese website. It constitutes the first time GM has been allowed to run highly automated vehicles on public roads in the country’s designated test zones.

Level 4 is considered by the Society of Automotive Engineers as when a vehicle is in control of the driving in a specific area. Initially, at least, the autonomous tech being assessed will be fitted to Cadillac’s electric Lyriq SUVs.

“We look forward to conducting real-world AV road testing in Shanghai with safety as our overriding priority,” said Chris Kinser, executive director of the GM China Engineering Center. “This will take GM’s global vision of zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion one step closer to reality in China, the world’s largest vehicle market.”

The program will get underway with a year of testing in an area of the Jinqiao district, the first downtown zone being used for AV road testing in any of the Chinese megacities. Jingqiao consists of 406 miles of designated test roads and coincidentally is also home to GM’s Chinese HQ and Advanced Technical Center.

The news is being hailed by GM as a “milestone” in its agreement with local company Momenta. In September 2021, the automaker announced a $300 million investment in the Beijing startup to develop self-driving tech for its vehicle lineup in China, and the award of a permit in Shanghai is tangible proof of the progress that is being made.

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Although human safety drivers will accompany the Lyriqs being tested, the cars will drive autonomously and will be exposed to what GM describes as “the most complex and sophisticated driving scenarios” among the four test zones that Shanghai uses for assessment of what is known locally as intelligent connected vehicles.

The program will leverage Momenta’s artificial intelligence to speed up algorithm iteration, while preparing the test fleet for more advanced levels of testing and operation.

Ultimately, the hope will be that the testing allows GM to play catch-up in terms of automated tech in China. While it is making progress in America – with its Cruise subsidiary, for example, operating self-driving taxis in San Francisco and expanding to other U.S. cities – it has fallen behind local operators such as Baidu and Pony.ai in the Chinese market.  

However, rather than application in robotaxis, the Shanghai tests will focus on demonstrating the tech’s readiness for integration with GM’s Ultium electric platform on personally owned production vehicles at scale.

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“The road test will help the local team achieve a better understanding of China’s road conditions, traffic regulations and people’s driving habits,” said Stanley Song, chief technology officer of GM China. “That will accelerate development and delivery of solutions customized for the Chinese market.”

About the Author(s)

Graham Hope

Graham Hope has worked in automotive journalism in the U.K. for 26 years, including spells as editor of leading consumer news website and weekly Auto Express and respected buying guide CarBuyer.

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