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Driverless cars take to streets amid epidemic

(Xinhua)    09:01, March 04, 2020

BEIJING, March 3 (Xinhua) -- Starting from the Spring Festival, a small yellow unmanned vehicle has driven around a square in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin every day, spraying disinfectant on the surrounding area.

Since the novel coronavirus outbreak, low-speed unmanned vehicles around the country have taken on various tasks including disinfection, vegetable distribution and patrol, which has greatly reduced the close contact between people.

A few days ago, the country issued a document on smart cars, proposing to achieve large-scale production of smart cars with conditional self-driving by 2025.

The large demand for driverless vehicles amid the epidemic has provided the industry with more inspirations for its future development, especially for low-speed unmanned vehicles, according to the Science and Technology Daily.

"Low speed" refers to a speed of five to 10 kph, which largely matches up with the existing sensors and algorithms for unmanned vehicles, while the cars can deal with almost all problems by collecting enough road information, said Li Chuanpeng from China Automotive Technology and Research Center Co., Ltd.

Compared with driving at a high speed, low-speed unmanned cars have more mature technologies. They can collect more intensive information and have more time to respond to problems due to their low speed.

However, speed is not the determinant of autonomous driving. Simple environments make its application easier, such as in the container terminal, where the path is fixed without pedestrian interference, Li added.

So far, many companies in the country have attached great importance to the unmanned driving tests, such as tech giant Baidu, which has tested the unmanned cars equipped with Baidu Apollo autonomous driving systems to carry passengers on the test roads with a total length of up to 114 km as of November.

In addition, some of the country's local governments have provided support for the driverless industry to promote its rapid development, and they have been engaged in the construction of self-driving infrastructure, including roads and demonstration areas for self-driving vehicles, to enhance safety and efficiency in test rides.

Some cities including Beijing and Shanghai have issued policies and license plates for autonomous vehicles, to assist in the research and development of the industry.

Also, the country's 5G technology, with the advantages of large bandwidth, ultra-low delay and the large amount of information transmitted, has accelerated the industry's development, said Li.

Unmanned vehicles have to maintain a stable connection with base stations to monitor their operation status, which requires a large volume of data exchange. With the 5G network, signal delays can be reduced to just a few dozen milliseconds.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Zhao Tong, Bianji)

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