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Shenzen, China, moves one step closer to fully autonomous vehicles, or ‘Robotaxis.’

The ‘Silicon Valley of China,’ Shenzen, has seen a recent influx of autonomous vehicles (AV), also known as driverless automobiles. Although they required a safety driver to operate, in reality they weren’t fully driverless or exactly what tech firms had envisioned for the future. A series of rules recently published by the Shenzhen government will bring the industry one step closer to a driverless future. Shenzhen, a city with a population of 18 million, currently has the most explicit AV laws in China. Beginning on Monday, registered autonomous vehicles (AVs) will be able to traverse a large portion of the city without a driver in the driver’s seat, however a driver must still be present inside the vehicle.

‘This is not truly driverless, but it’s a major milestone,’ said Maxwell Zhou, CEO of DeepRoute. ‘If you want more cars, ultimately there will be accidents, so these restrictions are very crucial for mass deployment.’

Robotaxis have up till now been given permission by municipal authorities to conduct a limited amount of business in Chinese cities. The legislation in Shenzhen are the first to lay out a framework for liability in the event of an accident, though.

The driver shall be responsible in the event that the AV is involved in a collision. If the vehicle is totally autonomous, the owner will be held responsible. The owner of the vehicle will be liable if the vehicle is entirely driverless. Alternatively, the owner of the vehicle can also pursue compensation from the manufacturer if a manufacturing defect results in an accident.

The industry in Shenzhen appears to be moving gears, with trial robotaxis swiftly becoming a ‘common sight,’ despite the fact that the United States is supposed to have begun testing autonomous vehicle (AV) technology first.

50,000 individuals have tried out the hundreds of sensor-equipped robotaxis that ply the busy Futian commercial district in China’s southern tech hotspot over the course of the past year.


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