China drafts rules on use of self-driving vehicles for public transport

SHANGHAI, Aug 8 (Reuters) - China should adopt autonomous vehicles in passenger transport with care, the country's Ministry of Transportation said in drafted rules to regulate the self-driving industry.

The ministry will encourage the use of autonomous vehicles as taxis in easily controlled scenarios in low traffic situations, according to a draft seeking public advice published on Monday.

"The management of transportation with autonomous driving vehicles should stick to the principles with safety as the top priority," the Ministry of Transportation said in the drafted rules.

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China and U.S. are in a race to commercialize autonomous driving, from cutting-edge technologies in sensors and mapping to regulations balancing between development and safety.

U.S. states like Arizona have been allowing self-driving trucking companies to operate without human drivers, while California approved General Motor's (GM.N) robotaxi unit Cruise LLC in June to start charging passengers for its driverless rides.

In China, Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen have also allowed robotaxi operations by companies including Baidu and Pony.ai in restricted areas.

Baidu said on Monday it has obtained permits to operate the first fully driverless robotaxi services on open roads in two Chinese cities. read more

The search engine giant said the permits awarded by the southwestern municipality of Chongqing and the central city of Wuhan marked a "turning point" in China's policy-making towards autonomous driving.

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Reporting by Zhang Yan, Brenda Goh; Editing by Louise Heavens and Mike Harrison

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