Chinese autonomous vehicle firm WeRide has been granted test licenses for robot buses in Singapore, part of an ambitious expansion plan to bring driverless buses to major metropolises around the world.
As cities look to automate their transport systems, Chinese autonomous vehicle (AV) companies are leading the way, testing vehicles including robot buses, vans and road sweepers.
Singapore is leading the charge for driverless vehicles
Singapore’s small size and advanced road infrastructure have helped to make it one of the leading countries for driverless buses. The island nation even built a mini-town – complete with a rain machine to simulate the island’s frequent tropical downpours – as a test circuit. Automated public transport could help Singapore to overcome some of the challenges faced by one of densest and fastest-aging populations in the world. With a quarter of its people set to be over the age of 65 by 2030, Singapore hopes driverless buses will help ease mobility issues for seniors and solve a future shortage of bus drivers.
Middle East vies with Singapore in race to go driverless
The Middle East is vying with Singapore in the race to go driverless – with WeRide one of several Chinese AV companies looking to put robot vehicles on the streets. The United Arab Emirates – which has vowed to go 25% driverless by 2030 – in July granted WeRide the country’s first national license to test self-driving vehicles on the country’s roads, including robotaxis, robobuses, robosweepers, and robovans. Saudi Arabia introduced self-driving bus services during the Hajj this year shuttling pilgrims in Mecca, CNN reported, while Dubai is rolling out its first round of robotaxis in a bid to ease congestion and accidents.
Chinese AV firms face obstacles in U.S. over their handling of sensitive data
WeRide and other Chinese AV firms have run into roadblocks in the U.S. over fears around their collection of sensitive data. Last month a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers raised the alarm about the companies’ collection and handling of data about Americans and their daily routines, according to letters seen by Reuters. Pete Buttigieg, U.S. Secretary of Transportation, has also cited national security concerns about the possibility of such data being shared with the Chinese government. However, one think-tank expert told The China Project that “a driverless car in the middle of nowhere” is not an especially useful intelligence tool, adding that there’s no evidence they’ve been used for surveillance so far.