BMW wins driverless car testing permit in China in a first for a foreign car maker

German car maker will test the 7 Series in a test site in Shanghai this month

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - The interior of BMW X2 at Mina Port on April 29, 2018. (Khushnum Bhandari/ The National)
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BMW won a licence to test driverless cars in Shanghai, making the German luxury car maker the first international company to test autonomous vehicles on China's roads.

The Shanghai Municipal Commission of Economy and Information granted licences for the BMW 7 Series sedans in a test site spanning 5.6 kilometres, BMW said in a statement on Sunday. The car maker will begin with two vehicles in May and add up to seven cars by December.

"With the highest safety standards, we will rigorously promote the local development of Autonomous Driving and strive to achieve a safer, more efficient and more convenient transport system,” said Martin Sautter, senior vice president of R&D Centre BMW Group at BMW China Services.

Shanghai began issuing testing permits in March, with the first batch being awarded to Chinese electric vehicle startup NIO and state-owned car maker SAIC, according to Chinese news agency Xinhua. The licences will allow operators to test drive the vehicles on a 5.6km public road in Shanghai’s Jiading District. For BMW, the permit is a step towards its plan to launch an autonomous vehicle in 2021.


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BMW will double its autonomous vehicle testing fleet to 80 cars despite the death of a pedestrian struck by a self-driving car during tests by ride-sharing company Uber, the company told Reuters in March.

Apple, which was spurned by BMW and Mercedes to develop an all-electric self-driving car, signed a deal with Volkswagen to convert some of the car maker's new T6 Transporter vans into Apple's self-driving shuttles for employees, The New York Times reported earlier this month.

Last week, a US warning that it may introduce tariffs on foreign car imports hit the shares of German car makers including BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen, who together make up 90 per cent of the North American luxury car market.