Two self-driving car companies are currently testing their technology in Guangzhou, one of China’s most congested cities, where bikes and jaywalkers are constantly battling with cars, and at times, going against the traffic.
On a sunny afternoon in August, Quartz took a ride in an autonomous vehicle operated by one of them—WeRide, a two-year-old company based in Guangzhou, with operations in Silicon Valley. The company, previously known as Jingchi, was founded by two former executives of the search giant Baidu. WeRide’s CEO, Tony Han, recently said he’s aiming to launch autonomous taxis as soon as next year.
The vehicle, a black Lincoln MKZ (much like the one I drove in from its Guangzhou rival, Pony.ai, last year), is equipped with a host of sensing technology. It has “Level 4” autonomy, meaning it is capable of driving on its own in challenging conditions. (No company has managed to show off a fully autonomous Level 5 system, considered the top level in the Society of Automotive Engineers’ five-level classification system.) The car was mounted with two lidars—laser-radar sensor technology used by most self-driving car companies to help the vehicles see the world around them—developed by the Chinese company Hesai.