As autonomous vehicle (AV) technology enters a period of development maturity, most countries have continued to ramp up testing, development and adoption of AVs over the last year, according to a latest global report by KPMG.
China is seen as leading the industry on partnerships, with a main commercial interest in the use of AVs in special-purpose trucks such as inside warehouses and mines and goods deliveries, with involvement from Chinese retailers and use on city-to-city highways.
In the third edition of its 2020 Autonomous Vehicles Readiness Index (AVRI) report, KPMG finds that
China is one of the top five performing countries in terms of securing the highest score in autonomous vehicles (AVs)-related industry partnerships, rising from thirteenth place last year.
In addition, Beijing was identified as one of the five hyperconnected cities undertaking ground-breaking work at a municipal level.
"China is leading the world, both on technology and pace of adoption and implementation, especially with its early introduction of 5G networking. Along with work to develop cooperative vehicle infrastructure system, this will build strong foundations for the introduction of AVs. The Chinese public also appear receptive to using such vehicles, particularly younger generations,” said Philip Ng, Partner, head of technology, KPMG China.
The latest AVRI report evaluates the progress of 30 countries and jurisdictions across 28 indicators to assess their readiness and progress in furthering AV deployment and innovation. The indicators are organised under four pillars: policy and legislation, technology and innovation, infrastructure and consumer acceptance.
This year, countries leading the overall ranking with the highest scores are Singapore (25.45), the Netherlands (25.22) and Norway (24.25). China's overall ranking remains the same as last year, in 20th position, however the country has seen progress as reflected by its increased score (from 14.41 to 16.42). China also remains in the top five in terms of market share of electric cars (EVs), a key precursor to AVs.
China’s digital transport construction strategy
Furthermore, the report shows Chinese companies are also building capacity as suppliers in AV technologies including chipsets, with around 36 investments made in 2019, and LiDAR, with four or five significant local companies. Suppliers are developing sensors, AI algorithms and vehicle communications technologies.
Norbert Meyring, partner, head of automotive at KPMG China noted the country is evolving quite fast on national level policies, with a digital transport construction strategy in place, and new standards for AVs including a version of the internationally-used five levels of autonomous driving published recently.
“It is a very high priority for the country, and the Chinese government has made it easier to test AVs on public roads, in more cities and with fewer controls,” he said.
Beijing, the first Chinese city to authorise the testing of AVs on public roads in 2017, has taken a leading position among China's cities and continues to dedicate resources to researching and developing the use of self-driving vehicles, serving as a model for other Chinese cities.
In December 2019, Beijing began to allow the testing of AVs with passengers. The city is highlighted in this year's report as one of the top five to watch that are paving a future for AVs. The other four cities featured are Detroit, Helsinki, Pittsburgh and Seoul.
The AVRI report stated Beijing has rated the importance of AV as "extremely important in three years”, as China plans to use AVs in major events, such as the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics; The Beijing 2022 Organising Committee is hoping to make the events the most technologically driven yet, with AVs playing a huge role.
However, KPMG pointed out that some challenges remain, including the need for high precision navigation maps and further development of policies and standards. A specific issue involves the heavy use of many Chinese roads by pedestrians and cyclists as well as motorised vehicles.
"This presents additional challenges for autonomous driving. To tackle this, we expect that multi-lane highways will have one lane designated and equipped for AVs in the initial stage," Ng said.