By Mark Schaub and Atticus Zhao King & Wood Mallesons’ Corporate & Securities group

China is continuing to refine its regulatory framework for self-driving cars.

On 29 December 2017, (the last working day in 2017) the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) and Standardization Administration of China (SAC) jointly issued the final Guidelines for the Establishment of National Standards System of Telematics Industry (Intelligent & Connected Vehicles) (“Final Guidelines”). This happened six months after the draft guidelines were issued for public comment on 13 June 2017 (“Draft Guidelines”)[1].

The Final Guidelines aim to set national standards for China’s Intelligent & Connected Vehicles (ICV). Such standards system will play an important, leading and supportive role in the development of China’s ICV industry.

Changes to the Draft?

The Draft Guidelines remain largely in place with the Final Guidelines only having minor changes.

What are the Key Changes?

The main changes compared to the Draft Guidelines are as follows:

1. Definition for levels of automation removed

The Draft Guidelines provided for the first time China’s definition as to levels of automation. This definition had been based on widely accepted definition of levels of automation outlined by SAE International. However, in the Final Guidelines the definition for levels of automation has been removed.

We assume that the Chinese authorities may have considered it to be too early to definitively set out such definitions as this will be a recommended national standard.

2. More standards included into “to-do-list” of urgent actions

The Draft Guidelines listed 21 standards to be established by the government in the near future. In the Final Guidelines, 3 further standards have been added into such list. These additional standards are performance requirements and trial methods for (i) monitoring system for blind areas when opening a door, (ii) control systems for intelligent speed limitation; and (iii) assistant control systems in case of traffic congestion.

3. More efforts to reduce legal barriers

Notably, the Final Guidelines included a new paragraph in the implementation section that the authorities will analyze clauses in the current standards and rules relating to the technology of ICV and will gradually eliminate such standards and rules that would impede the development of new technology for the automotive sector and will provide a sound policy environment for the development of ICV.

These changes are a strong indicator of the intention on the Chinese authorities to remove legal barriers that impeded the development of autonomous vehicles.

4. More Standards included

The Draft Guidelines provided for 95 standards to be established.  This number has been increased to 99 in the Final Guidelines. These standards include 11 for Foundation, 31 for General Specification, 49 for Product and Technology Application and 8 for Relevant Standards.

On the other hand the Final Guidelines reduces the number of statutory national standards from 6 to 5.  These 5 statutory standards include (i) general rules for vehicle warning signal, (ii) performance requirements and trial methods for human machine control conversion system, (iii) requirements and appraisal methods for ICV human machine interface system failure protection, (iv) vehicle incidents data recording system, and (v) requirements and appraisal methods for autonomous driving recording device.

In the future automakers and auto related technology companies will need to follow these statutory standards in order to supply autonomous vehicles to the Chinese market.

What’s Next?

The issuance of the Final Guidelines is a clear signal that China is building the standards system required to enable autonomous vehicles to be on Chinese roads in the coming years.

Coincidently, on 26 December 2017, the China National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) released a Three Year Action Plan to Enhance the Core Competitiveness in Manufacturing Industry (2018- 2020). It should be noted that a key plank of this paper included an Implementation Plan for the Commercialization of Key Technology for Intelligent Vehicles (“Implementation Plan”).

The Implementation Plan goal is the establishment and operation by 2020 of a national innovation platform and industrial system for intelligent vehicles. In addition it intends to gradually improve fundamental technology capability and achieve more breakthroughs in respect of core hardware and software systems for intelligent vehicles.

The Final Guidelines and the Implementation Plan are strong evidence of the Chinese government efforts to be a leader in the race to develop autonomous vehicles.  We envisage that more guidelines and regulations will be in place in China in 2018 to further boost this sector.

[1] Please refer to our article on the Draft Guidelines – China: Put Self-driving Cars into Gear -