China to test driverless cars in 2013

Unmanned vehicles developed locally will be driven from Beijing to Tianjin next year as part of the country's efforts to advance the driverless car concept.

China plans to starting testing driverless cars by sending these unmanned vehicles from Beijing to neighboring city Tianjin in 2013.

Xinhua reported Thursday the distance between Beijing and Tianjin spans 120 kilometers (km), and the driverless cars will use advanced technologies such as global positioning system (GPS), ultrasonic radar and various other sensore to navigate the route.

Additionally, the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) is already planning a longer test drive from Beijing to the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen--which spans a distance of 2,400 km--in 2015, it added.

The NSFC first started researching on cognitive computing of visual and auditory information to advance the driverless car concept in 2008. Zheng Nanning, the head of the research project and president of the Xi'an Jiaotong University, said China has made several technological breakthroughs in this arena since then.

However, the country still lags behind the global level of innovation and China's complex traffic system brings additional challenges to unmanned automobiles, Zheng added.

Internet giant Google is another notable proponent of the driverless car concept. It had successfully lobbied the Nevada state government in the United States to grant licenses for the testing of unmanned vehicles last July.