A passenger uses a robotaxi service app in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province. [PHOTO/CHINA DAILY]

Riding a self-driving taxi in central Shanghai is still futuristic, but one can already see these unmanned vehicles doing test runs in the municipality's Pudong New Area.

The robotaxis strictly follow all traffic rules and regulations — stopping at red lights, minding obstacles, braking or accelerating when necessary and making U-turns.

The Shanghai Pudong Jinqiao Intelligent Connected Vehicle Test Demonstration Zone, an open road for fully autonomous vehicles, has been a hot spot for trial runs since Pudong enacted in March a local regulation on the use of unmanned intelligent connected vehicles.

The regulation offers details of the application procedure and the responsibilities of enterprises to carry out road tests and demonstration operations of fully self-driving ICVs. It is the country's first legislation that provides legal support for driverless vehicles to test and operate on the road in a central area of a Chinese megacity.

According to Tang Wenkan, deputy director of the Shanghai Municipal Commission of Economy and Informatization, the window of competition for intelligent cars has opened.

"Legislation is essential to promote the industry to become bigger and stronger," Tang said. "Legal protection can effectively boost industry confidence and attract leading companies. With the legislation, downstream enterprises are also willing to expand their presence in Shanghai, which will further enhance Shanghai's ICV technological innovation and industrial competitiveness."

In March, 14 companies related to intelligent connected vehicles signed contracts to settle in Pudong's Jinqiao, Zhangjiang and other areas.

Many companies have applied for road tests in Jinqiao, according to Lin Yu, general manager of Shanghai Jinqiao Intelligent Connected Vehicle Development Co. "We've issued test notifications to four companies, which are now testing driverless taxis, driverless delivery, unmanned shuttle buses and automatic parking in our demonstration zone," Lin said.

Autonomous vehicle startup AutoX, which is based in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, is one of the first companies testing its robotaxis in Jinqiao.

"Pudong's recognition at the legislative level that allows ICVs to enter public roads as legal traffic participants has provided a better testing ground for product research and development," said Terry Lin, vice-president of AutoX. "Legislation support is essential for fully driverless vehicles to realize large-scale standardized implementation."

The piece of legislation, which is set to provide significant support for Shanghai to build a world-class automobile industry center, is the city's latest legislation effort to back Pudong's high level of reform and opening-up.

In June 2021, Shanghai's legislators were authorized to make laws specific to Pudong in accordance with its needs for reform and innovation following a guideline released by the State Council, China's Cabinet, to support Pudong's development as a pioneer of socialist modernization. Since then, a total of 15 laws, including the one on ICV application, have been tailored for Pudong.

"The biggest role of any legislation for Pudong New Area is to address some of the blocking points or bottlenecks in our current laws and regulations," Liu Yuqing, deputy director of the Pudong New Area People's Congress Standing Committee, told reporters in January.

"Our focus is to ensure that the institutional innovation advantages of the Pudong New Area legislation are transformed into high-quality development," Liu said.