China behind, but catching up, in race for driverless
Two new startups indicate Chinese companies are recognizing the future of transportation and are investing to catch up to their American rivals. They retain the advantage of being a Chinese company operating in the Chinese market:
A clutch of Chinese startups are accelerating efforts to get autonomous vehicles onto roads in the world’s biggest auto market. Roadstar.ai is testing electric self-driving cars in the southern metropolis of Shenzhen and hopes to get 1,500 of them into the business districts of major cities by 2020. Sequoia Capital-backed Pony.ai plans to deploy a fleet of at least 20 self-driving vehicles for public ride-hailing services in Guangzhou as soon as next year.
They’re making up for lost time and a deficit of crucial data but have two advantages: a central government keen on seeing 30 million autonomous vehicles on roads within a decade, and a massive base of 300 million-plus drivers.
China does have the advantage of being able to pick and subsidize “winning” industries and companies. The downside, of course, is the market is usually better at producing winners. Time will tell. But the race for fully operational driverless technology keeps getting more competitive.