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On December 15, 2017, three government agencies of the Beijing Municipality (i.e. the Beijing Municipal Commission of Transport, the Beijing Traffic Management Bureau and the Beijing Municipal Commission of Economy and Information Technology) jointly released the Guiding Opinions of the Beijing Municipality on Accelerating the Work of Road Tests for Autonomous Vehicles (for Trial Implementation) (“Guiding Opinions”) and the Detailed Implementation Rules of the Beijing Municipality for the Administration of the Road Tests of Autonomous Vehicles (for Trial Implementation) (“Implementation Rules”). Although the Guiding Opinions and the Implementation Rules are applicable in Beijing only, they are the very first regulations dealing with road tests of autonomous vehicles in China. The Guiding Opinions and the Implementation Rules mark a significant move in China’s implementation of its intelligent and connected vehicle initiative and legislation over autonomous driving vehicles.

In this alert, we summarize the key concepts and provisions set out in the Guiding Opinions and the Implementation Rules:

1. Key Definitions

(1) Autonomous Vehicles

Autonomous vehicles (“AVs”) are defined as motor vehicles in conformity with the National Technical Requirements for the Safe Running of Motor Vehicles (GB 7258) that are equipped with the autonomous driving system.

(2) Autonomous Driving Functions

Autonomous driving functions refer to an AV’s functions that can direct and make decisions for the vehicle’s running without the need for any physical driving operation performed by a Test Driver (as defined below), and can cause the vehicle to achieve safe running in replacement of a Test Driver’s operation.

Autonomous driving functions include self-driving functions, autonomous speed-changing functions, autonomous braking functions, autonomous surrounding monitoring functions, autonomous lane-changing functions, autonomous steering functions, autonomous signal-reminding functions, networked autonomous driver-assistance functions, etc.

(3) Autonomous Driving System

Autonomous driving system refers to a system that can perform autonomous driving functions during a certain period of time.

The following driver-assistance functions are excluded from the scope of autonomous driving system: active safety assistance system, electronic blind spot assistance system, collision avoidance system, emergency braking system, parking assistance system, adaptive cruise control system, lane keeping assistance system, lane departure warning system, traffic congestion queuing assistance system, etc.

2. Designated Authorities

(1) Joint Working Group

A working group jointly established by (i) the Beijing Municipal Commission of Transport (as the leading authority), (ii) the Beijing Traffic Management Bureau, and (iii) the Beijing Municipal Commission of Economy and Information Technology (“Joint Working Group”) is designated as the administration authority for the administration of the AV road tests conducted in Beijing.

(2) Expert Committee

The Joint Working Group will organize an expert committee consisting of experts from different areas such as transportation, communication, automobile, electronics, computer and law to review and assess the applications for the AV road tests and to issue expert opinions.

(3) Third-Party Institute

In addition, the Joint Working Group will authorize third-party institute(s) to supervise the AV road tests in the whole process ( “Designated Institute”). The Designated Institute will be responsible for handling applications, organizing expert assessment, tracking tests, collecting data, daily supervision, etc.

3. Competent Applicants

  • Independent legal entities registered within China that conduct research / experiments related to autonomous driving and need to have their vehicles temporarily run on road are eligible to apply for the AV road tests ( “Applicants”). Applicants should apply for AV road tests with a view to testing the autonomous driving system. In other words, companies set up in any city in China may apply to conduct AV road tests in Beijing, while foreign companies would not be eligible.
  • To apply for authorization for conducting AVs road tests, the Applicants shall submit (i) basic specifications of the vehicle used for AV road tests, (ii) introduction and operating instructions of the autonomous driving system, and (iii) proof of installation of autonomous driving data recording device.
  • The Applicants shall undertake that supervision devices will be installed and operating on the AVs for road test and the relevant road tests will be subject to day-to-day supervision by the Designated Institute.
  • For each Test AV (as defined below), the Applicants shall purchase traffic accident insurance with an insured amount of no less than RMB 5,000,000, or provide letters of guarantee for road test accidents with a monetary coverage value of no less than RMB 5,000,000.

4. Test AVs

  • Vehicles used for AV road tests shall have not been registered with local traffic administration authorities (“Test AVs”).
  • Test AVs must meet the National Technical Requirements for the Safe Running of Motor Vehicles (GB7258), and shall have the driving functions of conventional motor vehicles so that the Test Driver (as defined below) can physically take control of the vehicle in case of emergency during the course of road tests.
  • Test AVs shall be equipped with an autonomous driving system, which shall have both the self-driving function and the disengagement function, and can switch between the autonomous driving mode and the conventional driving mode. At any time under the autonomous driving mode, the Test Driver shall be able to directly intervene and quickly take over the Test AV.
  • The Applicants shall have tested the Test AVs under prescribed scenes and with prescribed total mileage in closed test fields as recognised by the competent authorities.
  • Test AVs shall be installed with (i) monitoring devices, with functions to monitor the Test Driver’s driving behaviours, to gather location information of the Test AVs, to monitor the autonomous driving status, etc., as well as the function to transfer the real-time monitoring data to the Designated Institute; (ii) reminder devices, such as visual reminder devices and safety warning functions enabling the Test Driver to know the status of the autonomous driving system; and (iii) data recording devices that can record the data in the event of collision or system failure for a period starting from 60 seconds before the incident until the time the Test AV stops running.
  • The Applicant can apply for up to five Test AVs in each application.

5. Test Drivers

  • The Applicants and the individuals who will sit in the Test AV’s driver seats ( “Test Drivers”) shall enter into labour contracts. In other words, the Test Drivers must be employees of the Applicant.
  • The Test Drivers shall have the PRC driving license. They shall have safe driving experience for more than three years without any record of drunk driving or drugged driving. Also, the Test Drivers shall have a proficient knowledge of safe driving and a full understanding of autonomous driving.
  • The Applicants shall provide materials evidencing training received by the Test Drivers with respect to autonomous driving, especially under circumstances requiring the Test Driver to take over the Test AVs.

6. Test Administration

  • AV road tests shall be conducted in the designated areas during the designated time periods.
  • During the road test, the Test Driver shall remain seated in the driver seat and comply with all traffic laws. Only the Test Driver and the test staff can sit in the Test AV during the road test. Individuals irrelevant to the road test are prohibited from sitting in the Test AV during the road test.
  • An Applicant shall apply for a temporary license plate for each Test AVs within 30 days following approval of its proposed road tests. In the event of any material upgrade or change of the autonomous driving system, or the any change to the Test AV, the Applicant shall re-apply for the road test qualification for the relevant Test AV.
  • An Applicants shall submit monthly reports to the Designated Institute with respect to the disengagement by the Test AVs from the autonomous driving mode. For any disengagement incident, the autonomous driving data for the period starting from 30 seconds before the incident shall be submitted to the authorities.
  • The operation data recorded by the data recording devices of the Test AVs shall be kept for at least 3 years.
  • Road tests of the braking system are prohibited.

7. Traffic Accidents during Tests

  • The Test Driver will be regarded as the driver of the vehicle and shall be responsible for the liabilities incurred in the event of any traffic accident or traffic violation during the road test.
  • The Applicant conducted road tests shall submit the recorded data of the accident to the Designated Institute within 24 hours after occurrence of the accident, and shall further submit an accident report in a prescribed form to the Designated Institute within 10 days after occurrence of the accident. Within 10 days after the liabilities of the accident have been determined, the Applicant should submit additional analysis documents to the Designated Institute.
  • The Designated Institute may suspend the test qualification of the Test AV causing the accident.
  • If any major accident (such as casualties or vehicle damage) wholly or partially attributable to the Test AVs has occurred, the Designated Institute shall suspend the test qualification of all Test AVs operated by the Applicant.On January 4, 2018, it was reported that a testing zone will be set up in the town of Yizhuang in Beijing’s suburban areas to be the first designated area for road tests of AVs in Beijing. Nine other cities in China such as Shanghai have also set up their respective designated testing zones for AVs. We expect that these other cities will follow suit and issue their respective local rules concerning road tests of AVs in the new future.

Vivian Wu is a partner in Baker McKenzie's Beijing office, advising US and European corporations on regulatory, compliance and FCPA-related matters in China. Ms. Wu worked at our Washington D.C. office in 2014, graduated from Harvard Law School, and is admitted to practice in New York and China.