Provisions on the Administration of Road Testing of Smart Connected Automobiles (Trial Implementation) (Mainland China)

Joyce Wen

Recently, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the Ministry of Public Security, and the Ministry of Transport jointly promulgated the Provisions on the Administration of Road Testing of Smart Connected Automobiles (Trial Implementation) (the “Provisions”), which serve as the nation-wide standard for the road testing of self-driving cars.  The Provisions went into effect on May 1, 2018.  Consisting primarily of test entities, test drivers, test vehicles, test applications and examination, test administration and the handling of traffic violations and accidents, the Provisions are detailed below:

I. Requirements for test entities, test drivers and test vehicles

Pursuant to the Provisions, the entities applying for testing refer to those that apply for the road testing of smart connected cars, organize such tests and assume the corresponding responsibilities, as well as meet the following conditions: (1) they are independent legal entities registered within the territories of the People’s Republic of China; (2) they are capable of engaging in business relating to smart connected cars, such as the manufacture of parts and components, research and development, or trials and tests; (3) they have the financial capability to pay civil damages in the event of potential personal and property loss in the course of testing of smart connected cars; (4) they have testing and evaluation procedures for the self-driving functions of smart connected cars; (5) they are capable of conducting real-time remote monitoring of test vehicles; (6) they are capable of recording, analyzing and reproducing test vehicle events; and (7) they meet all other requirements under laws, regulations and rules.

Test drivers shall meet the following requirements: (1) they have executed a labor contract or service contract with the testing entity; (2) they have a driver’s license for the corresponding car models with at least three years of driving experience; (3) they have not reached full traffic violation marks in the last three consecutive scoring periods; (4) there has been no serious traffic violations, such as speeding by over 50% above the limit, traffic lights violations, etc., in the previous year; (5) there is no prior history of drunk driving, and there is no record of taking psychoactive or narcotics drugs regulated by the state; (6) there is no record of liability for any traffic accident resulting in the death or serious injury of others; (7) they have received self-driving training from the testing entity to ensure familiarity with the self-driving test procedures, the operating self-driving testing operations, and they are capable of handling emergency situations; and (8) other requirements stipulated by laws, regulations and rules.

The Provisions further stipulate that test vehicles can be passenger vehicles or commercial vehicles but do not include low-speed cars or motorcycles, and they must meet the following requirements: (1) they have not been registered as motor vehicles; (2) they meet the requirements for mandatory inspection items for corresponding vehicle types except for durability requirements; for individual items that cannot meet the above mandatory inspection requirements due to the realization of self-driving functions, the testing entity shall substantiate that the safety performance of the vehicles are not compromised; (3) the vehicles shall have a manual driving mode and an automatic driving mode, can switch between such modes in a safe, fast and simple manner with corresponding indicators, and can immediately switch to the manual driving mode at all times; (4) the vehicles shall have vehicle status recording, storage and online monitoring functions, transmit such data in real time, as well as automatically record all data for at least 90 seconds prior to an accident or vehicle failure, and the data may be stored for at least three years; (5) the test vehicles shall be sufficiently tested as real vehicles in specific areas such as closed roads or closed places; they shall meet the relevant industry standards of the state, the test requirements released by provincial and municipal governments, and follow the test evaluation procedures of the testing entity; and the vehicles shall meet the requirements for road testing; (6) the self-driving function of the test vehicle shall be tested and verified by a third-party institution that is engaged in the relevant automobile business, is recognized by the state, provincial or municipal government, and the test and verification items meet the relevant requirements.

II. Standards for test applications and examination

Pursuant to the Provisions, a testing entity shall file a road testing application with the relevant competent authorities in the local provincial or municipal government where the roads on which the testing is to be conducted are located.  The application materials shall include at least: (1) the basic profile of the testing entity, the test driver and the test vehicle; (2) in case of a domestically made vehicle, the ex-factory conformity certificate for finished motor vehicles shall be provided; however, for vehicle types that are not among those announced, the ex-factory conformity certificate and the mandatory inspection reports for corresponding car models as issued by a third-party inspection institution recognized by the state shall be provided; and in case of imported vehicles, the mandatory product certification certificate, onboard vehicle inspection form and the certificate for imported goods shall be provided; (3) a description of the self-driving functions and certification that the safety performance of the vehicle is not compromised as a result; (4) certification for passing the vehicle technical safety inspection; (5) materials substantiating that the testing entity will conduct road tests only in specific areas such as closed roads and places; (6) an inspection report on the self-driving functions as issued by a third-party test institution engaging in automobile-related business and is recognized by the state or provincial or municipal government; (7) the test plan, test items, test procedures, risk analysis and response measures; and (8) a compulsory insurance certificate for traffic accident liability with a coverage of no less than RMB 5 million for each car, or a compensation guarantee letter for self-driving road test accidents of no less than RMB 5 million.

After accepting the test applications, the relevant provincial and municipal government authorities shall issue a smart connected car road test notice for each of the test cars that has passed review, and they shall regularly report such matters to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the Ministry of Public Security, and the Ministry of Transport for recordation and make public announcements regarding such tests.

After a testing entity receives an approval, an application shall be filed with the traffic administration department of the public security office for a temporary license plate for the test vehicle by submitting the test notice and the certifications required under the Provisions on the Registration of Motor Vehicles.  In principle, the test period shall not exceed 18 months.

III. Scope of test management

After a test begins, the Provisions require that the test vehicle shall comply with the requirements for the administration of temporary license plate and shall be marked with “self-driving testing” on the body of the vehicle in conspicuous colors to warn other vehicles.  The test driver shall always stay in the driver seat of the test vehicle, continue monitoring the status of the vehicle and the surrounding environment and be ready to take over the vehicle.  In the event the test driver believes that the vehicle is no longer in a state suitable for self-driving, or if the vehicle system indicates that manual operation is required, the test driver shall timely take over the vehicle.  During the test, there shall not be any persons or goods in the test vehicle that are not related to the test.  On the other hand, the test vehicle shall not be in self-driving mode except for the test road sections specified in the test notice; for the section from the parking lot to the test road sections, the car shall be driven in manual mode.

In addition, the Provisions also stipulate that testing entities shall regularly submit test reports.  Under certain circumstances, the competent authorities may also revoke the test notice.

IV. Traffic violations and accident handling

If a test vehicle incurs a traffic violation during the test period, the Provisions stipulate that the traffic administration department of the public security office shall deal with the test driver pursuant to the current traffic safety laws and regulations.  In case of a traffic accident during the test period, the responsibilities of the parties shall be assessed pursuant to traffic safety laws and regulations, and damages or criminal liabilities, if any, shall be determined pursuant to laws, regulations and judicial interpretations.

In addition, if an accident results in any serious injury or death of individuals or any damage to vehicles, the testing entity shall report the accident to the relevant provincial and municipal government authorities within 24 hours.  The testing entity shall then submit the relevant materials on the causes of the accident, the results of the responsibility determination and a comprehensive accident analysis report within the next 5 business days.

In general, the promulgation of the Provisions has provided a unified standard for the road testing of self-driving vehicles across the country.  Although some regions may still promulgate their own local implementation regulations, the existence of the Provisions will provide a basis to follow.  For enterprises that wish to test on roads that pass through provinces and cities, the promulgation of the Provisions should be more conducive to the preparation of various applications in advance.