China tests first autonomous vehicles

Chinese cab and delivery companies are testing the country’s first unmanned vehicles, which could possibly replace drivers on the roads.

Automakers are using delivery robots and other robot methods to reduce vehicle congestion, especially in densely populated areas.

“This is going to help reduce car congestion in these areas,” said Abdul Aziz Shaab, General Motors (GM) president for global human resources and the Middle East. “And if our countries can enhance the governance environment, it will help us move forward.”

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Chinese machine translation company Etesic, part of a partnership between China Automotive Systems Inc. and Toyota (7203.T), debuted delivery robots in Beijing earlier this month, but the automaker did not supply any vehicles.

“Although it’s not entirely safe or reliable, I do think it will become a useful and commercially viable service at some point,” said Doug Parker, head of Toyota’s investment arm, Toyota Tsusho Corp.

Konkuk University in South Korea uses carpooling robots with passengers bussed together in the car — and on foot. Chinese ridesharing service Didi Chuxing and ride-sharing firm Lyft have announced similar programs.

AP reports the first autonomous delivery vehicles — parked in public spaces — are operated by electric buses or one-person electric cars equipped with rear-facing cameras. They are programmed to accept only grocery and flower orders from senders.

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