19 Apr 19

China builds lanes for driverless cars, does the world follow? 

China is building a new highway between Beijing and Xiongan (Hebei province), yet it won’t be but another highway, it will have dedicated lanes for autonomous vehicles. Does the world follow? 

The Project

The AV lanes on the new highway between Beijing and Xiongan New Area will be about 100km or 62 miles long, with 8 lanes of which 2 will be reserved and designed for AVs, as announced by the Beijing Capital Highway Development Group Co.

Moreover, this part of the highway will also include other smart features such as smart-toll facilities and intelligent road infrastructure which can acquire vehicle data and road information through wireless communication. The road must both enhance road safety as traffic flow. The new road will halve the current traffic time from 2.5 hours down to 1hr. 

The construction of the highway will take off this year. 

The Plan

While China is preparing to start constructing the first dedicated AV lanes, various North American cities and states are considering the implementation of AV lanes, yet none of them has concrete plans nor started any kind of construction yet. 

In 2017, in Wisconsin, highway planners were already looking into dedicated lanes for driverless cars according to the USA Today’s Journal Sentinel reports. The project would be part of the expansion of the current highway, in order to relieve traffic congestion. In the same year, tech investors pitched an idea to convert Interstate 5 in Wasington as well into a corridor for AVs between Seattle and Vancouver.  

The promise

The Canadian Alberta Party Leader Stephen Mandel has even made dedicated lanes for autonomous vehicles a part of his election programme. If his party forms the next government, he promises to build dedicated AV lanes on Highway 2. More in particular, he would add a dedicated lane in both directions – northbound and southbound – on the QEII Highway, which is the main corridor between Calgary and Edmonton. This lane would both offer opportunities for research and for the real applications of AVs. 

Hybrid fleets

It makes sense with the increasing development of autonomous vehicles that various cities and states around the world are already looking for a way to implement them in the road network. 

Especially since autonomous cars will have to share the road with human-driven cars when they first get introduced. And while various companies are working on hybrid fleet applications – to manage both autonomous and human-driven cars – letting them drive on separated lanes might increase safety and convenience even more. Yet, as the above stories illustrate, this is a story at its infancy, and definitely to be continued. 

Authored by: Fien Van den steen