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China's Uber announces self-driving-car pilot program

The self-driving ride-hailing vehicles will wander the streets of Shanghai.

China's Didi ride-sharing self-driving cars
These guys will be wandering Shanghai roads.

China is on a mission to become the world leader in artificial intelligence by the end of the next decade, and the country's leading ride-sharing firm has announced its first self-driving ride-sharing program to contribute to said goal.

Didi Chuxing, a Chinese company similar to Uber, said on Friday it will launch self-driving vehicles to act as ride-sharing vehicles in Shanghai. CNBC reported 30 cars will start in the pilot program with Level 4 self-driving capability. On the SAE scale of autonomy, Level 4 self-driving cars do not need to hand controls back to a human should something go wrong, but autonomy remains limited to certain modes or locations. These cars are considered highly autonomous, but not fully autonomous. That'd be a Level 5 self-driving car, which is the top of the scale.

Vehicles with humans behind the wheel will also be a part of the program but the finer details are unknown. Didi also did not provide a timeframe for when the self-driving cars will actually hit the streets.

Meanwhile in the US, automakers and technology companies are urging the federal government to move expediently on overhauling regulations for autonomous vehicles. Not only do domestic companies want to keep pace with technology, there's a desire to cement themselves are frontrunners in the budding self-driving car sector. Today, any self-driving car must still have manual controls, per federal regulations.

Waymo, General Motors, Ford and other companies are all in the process of testing self-driving cars and developing the future technology.

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