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Politecnico di Milano pioneers autonomous driving with the 1000 MAD project, testing self-driving Maserati MC20 Cielo in the 1000 Miglia race, writes the university in a press release. The ambitious goal is to complete the full 1,500 km race autonomously by 2024. Meanwhile, China accelerates driverless public transport commercialization, with cities like Shenzhen and Beijing embracing the technology. Beijing’s High-level Autonomous Driving Demonstration Zone expands, while Chongqing and Wuhan allow driverless vehicles for commercial services. China’s autonomous driving advantages include centimeter-level accuracy in vehicle positioning, advanced radar/LiDAR technology, and cost-effectiveness due to NEV leadership.

Politecnico di Milano’s 1000 MAD Project

Politecnico di Milano takes a significant step forward in the autonomous driving arena with their 1000 MAD (1000 Miglia Autonomous Drive) project. The initiative, led by professor Sergio Savaresi, aims to develop autonomous driving technology in real-life situations on various road types throughout the classic 1000 Miglia route. The self-driving Maserati MC20 Cielo, fitted with autonomous technology, was presented on 11 June 2023 at the 1000 Miglia Village in Brescia, Italy. With the goal of completing the 1,500 km race entirely autonomously by 2024, the project has received a year-long authorization for testing and refinement from the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport.

1000 MAD is a collaborative effort with 1000 Miglia srl, patronage of MOST (National Centre for Sustainable Mobility), sponsorship from Movyon and Cisco, and contributions from technical suppliers. Rector Donatella Sciuto of Politecnico di Milano remarked that the project positions the institution as a pioneer in the field of self-driving car technology, benefiting the national and international scientific and industrial communities and contributing to new models of sustainable mobility.

China’s Driverless Public Transport Push

While Italy makes headway in autonomous racing, China is rapidly expanding its driverless public transport sector. Various Chinese cities, including tech-hub Shenzhen, are now offering autonomous public transport services. Beijing has launched phase-3 construction of its High-level Autonomous Driving Demonstration Zone, extending the zone from 60 to 500 square kilometers. Additionally, the Ministry of Transport has released national guidelines encouraging self-driving taxi fleets under certain conditions, bolstering commercialisation of the technology.

Chinese cities such as Chongqing and Wuhan have introduced policies permitting driverless vehicles for commercial services on public roads. According to Zhang Xiang of Huanghe Science and Technology University, China’s government policies are promoting the development of autonomous driving, and the industry has strong growth momentum despite a later start than the US and Europe.

China’s Unique Advantages in Autonomous Driving

China’s top-level design in the autonomous driving industry chain encompasses quantum communication, 5G/6G, blockchain distributed systems, industrial Internet of Things, semiconductors, and new-energy vehicles (NEVs). The autonomous driving industry chain merges communication networks, distributed systems, smart city planning, and NEVs for a one-stop comprehensive application scenario. This integration yields benefits such as improved urban infrastructure, optimised urbanisation processes, addressing challenges of an aging population, and driving urban science and technology industry cluster development.

China’s unique advantages in the autonomous driving sector include centimetre-level accuracy in vehicle positioning, advanced radar/LiDAR technology, and cost-effectiveness due to its leadership in the NEV market. Chinese tech giant Baidu has announced the sale of self-driving cars for ¥350,000 ($50,090) apiece. In the first half of 2022, 2.88 million passenger cars with driver assistance functions were sold in China, accounting for 32.4 percent of all passenger car sales and marking a year-on-year growth of 46.2 percent. By the end of August, there were 10.99 million NEVs operating in the country.

The Future of Autonomous Driving in China

The commercial operation of autonomous driving services in China may commence with specific bus routes in urban areas. By December 2023, the Ministry of Transport has approved 14 autonomous driving projects. Guangzhou has been designated as an experimental city, with plans for 50 autonomous buses and 210 autonomous passenger vehicles to operate, providing 300,000 trips and running for 200,000 hours.

As Politecnico di Milano advances autonomous driving through its ambitious 1000 MAD project and China accelerates the commercialization of driverless public transport, the world inches closer to a future where autonomous vehicles play a significant role in sustainable mobility and urban development.