Right now, we know of self-driving cars to be a mostly Google and American endeavor. While European firms and regulators are turning their attention to the technology with increased fervor as well, it looks as though it could be the Chinese that sees self-driving cars go mainstream before anywhere else. Just as we saw with the likes of WiFi and 4G, new technology needs to be regulated and to some extent, controlled, in order to make sure that the new technology works as intended and so on. To that end, it appears as though China might have the upper hand when it comes to regulating self-driving cars, and thus enabling firms and car makers to get on with the work needed to get such vehicles onto the road.
A draft of a roadmap detailing the deployment of self-driving cars could be completed as early as this year, allowing regulators in the country to get to work on implementing something concrete into law much sooner than many would have expected. Li Keqiang, a professor of automotive engineering at the Tsinghua Unversity chairs the committee responsible for the draft, which is itself backed by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. It's clear that the Chinese government is looking ahead to the future of the car and possible uses for autonomous vehicles. Delivery trucks, for example, are one type of vehicle that would benefit from being self-driving and help boost the economy, as a lot of shopping in China is done online and then delivered locally, rather than handed over to a third-party delivery firm.
This is one area that China's rigid governmental structure can help, as the United States sees individual laws for each state concerning driving and road laws, whereas the Chinese government can make one decision that applies to all. Whether or not the Chinese government will make such a move is still unclear, but as the completion of said draft grows nearer, eyes from the US and Europe will be on China to see what kind of moves they make next and could perhaps provide leverage for companies like Google and Tesla to use in making their case relaxing regulation on self-driving cars.