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Tesla set to trial 'Robotaxi' initiative in China

8 May 2024 20:35 (UTC+04:00)
Tesla set to trial 'Robotaxi' initiative in China

By Alimat Aliyeva

Elon Musk offered to test the self-driving (FSD) functions of his cars during his recent trip to China, Azernews reports, citing foreign media.

The CEO of the United States electric vehicle maker Tesla, proposed testing the full self-driving, or FSD, functions of its vehicles in the Chinese market by deploying them as "taxis" during his recent visit to China, and sources indicated that the Chinese government may have offered partial support for this plan, according to chinadaily.com.cn.

In addition to seeking approval for its most advanced FSD software rollout in China, Musk also suggested implementing these functions in the country's taxi services, individuals close to the matter told China Daily.

Chinese officials told Musk that China "welcomes Tesla to do some robotaxi tests in the country" and hopes it to "set a good example", the sources said, but authorities did not immediately approve its widespread use of FSD functions.

Industry experts said that despite rising protectionism, including TikTok's ban in the United States, China has sent a clear signal that it is further opening its doors to multinational companies to test their advanced technologies in the country for mutual gain.

Musk confirmed earlier this year that Tesla would unveil its robotaxi, a concept that has long been part of the company's ambitious plans, on Aug 8. China is Tesla's second-largest market, and trade news reports say the robotaxi could be a "life-saving straw" for the US company to gain back market share from local carmakers.

Before the full rollout of its FSD functions, Tesla still needs to get approval to collect and transfer data that Tesla's cars need to train its driver-assistance features. People familiar with the matter said that this issue wasn't discussed in detail during Musk's visit to China.

On April 20, Chinese internet firm Baidu held a news conference announcing collaborations with several companies, including Tesla, related to the launch of its advanced lane-level navigation.

Some media reports said that Tesla inked a deal with Baidu to clear another regulatory hurdle for its autonomous driving services. A source close to Baidu told China Daily that he didn't see "any new deal related to FSD functions" between the two.

The two companies initiated their partnership in 2020, with Tesla already integrating Baidu's navigation map into its vehicles in China.

The source said he believed that the latest cooperation only means that the accuracy of Baidu's map provided to Tesla has been improved to some extent, and that it has no direct relations with its FSD function.

"Tesla doesn't rely on mapping to offer autonomous driving and hasn't got a license from Baidu to use its mapping license," he said.

According to the Ministry of Natural Resources, all intelligent driving systems are required to obtain a qualification before they can operate on public roads. Foreign companies need to partner with domestic companies that have obtained the license.

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