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Daimler gets permit to test Level 4 self-driving cars on-road in China

The Mercedes-Benz parent company is the first non-Chinese company to get the OK to test there.

Mercedes-Benz self-driving prototype
Despite all those cameras and sensors, a human test driver will still be behind the wheel of these prototypes.

Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler has received a permit allowing it to test Level 4 self-driving cars on public roads in Beijing. Daimler is the first international automaker to receive such permission, and says that the Chinese capital city offers, "unique and complex urban traffic situations" for testing autonomous technology.

To qualify for the permits, Daimler first had to demonstrate its autonomous prototype vehicles at a proving ground in China. Its test vehicles work in partnership and use technology from Chinese company Baidu Apollo. The prototypes will still have human drivers on board to take control in emergency situations. Daimler says they have received "rigorous automated driving training."

According to Automotive News, until now Chinese authorities had only given permission to a handful of Chinese companies to test self-driving tech on public roads: SAIC, Nio and Baidu. Daimler is partnered with tech giant Baidu on developing an open-source self-driving platform called Apollo.

Daimler already has permits for testing self-driving cars on the road in Germany and the US. In the US, the automaker received permission to test in California in 2014 and in Nevada in 2016.

Daimler has also partnered with Bosch on plans for Level 4 self-driving taxis, which the two companies said could debut by 2020.

Level 4 autonomy means that the self-driving vehicle can handle all driving tasks within certain modes, even if a human isn't available to take control. There are no Level 4 automated vehicles on sale to the general public today, though Volvo hopes to launch such a system -- potentially called Highway Assist -- on the 2021 XC90.