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China site tests autonomous cars in highway conditions

Autonomous driving cars being tested out on a section of Binlai Highway in Shandong province.

China is building its first site to test autonomous cars under highway conditions amid a global shift toward technologically advanced and self-driving vehicles.

State-backed Qilu Transportation Development Group Co. is using a section of an existing highway to create the test site in eastern Shandong province, a company spokesman said Thursday. Construction on the 26-kilometer-long testing site began April 12, and it is expected to start operating in September.

Chinese carmakers and industry suppliers including component manufacturers are stepping up efforts to seize opportunities presented by the move toward self-driving capabilities. The stretch of highway being converted to a test site has three tunnels, one bridge, three toll-collecting points, and many slopes, Qilu said. In addition, the company will install lidar systems, sensors, weather-monitoring equipment, and intelligent traffic signs for data exchange between test vehicles, the road, and users.

Drivers who formerly used the 26-kilometer (16-mile) section of highway linking the cities of Binzhou and Laiwu in eastern Shandong province will travel on an alternative route, the spokesman said. He declined to provide monetary details for the test site.

Separately, Qilu is trialing an “intelligent highway” in the eastern city of Jinan, also in Shandong province, that can generate electricity.