Huawei and China Mobile are working on vehicle-to-infrastructure communication in China's Shandong province

China has dedicated a mountainous stretch of highway in eastern Shandong province for testing connected, self-driving vehicles as part of the country's efforts to challenge the US in autonomous driving technology.

The local Qilu Transportation Development Group earmarked a 26-kilometer-long (16 miles) highway for autonomous driving and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, in cooperation with partners including Chinese telecom gear provider Huawei Technologies and China Mobile, one of the country's largest telecommunications network operators, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

The test section is a typical mountain motorway with three tunnels, a bridge and three toll stations, providing different testing scenarios, according to the report. Equipment such as road sensors, laser and microwave radars, panoramic video surveillance, were tested, Xinhua said, in addition to weather monitoring and traffic signs that can communicate with vehicles.

The project plans to build a world-class testing, research and development center and incubator for driverless vehicles by 2023. In the coming five years, it will explore integrated innovative business models surrounding smart infrastructure, new energy, autonomous driving, logistics, tourism and more. It will also offer information to help set relevant standards on autonomous cars and smart transport.

While Chinese self-driving vehicle players are still playing catch-up to their US peers in public road testing, China may provide a competitive advantage should it put its weight behind open-road testing given the country's vast infrastructure construction.

China is targeting for smart vehicles to account for half of all new cars sold at home by 2020, and for 90 per cent of motorways in big cities to support vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications, according to a plan by the National Development and Reform Commission, the top economic planning agency.

Such ambition has driven research and development into smart roads and transport infrastructure that can communicate with self-driving cars. In April, Huawei and 13 of China's leading carmakers, including SAIC and BYD, issued a cellular vehicle-to-anything (C-V2X) road map.

Baidu, which has invested heavily in autonomous driving, last year introduced a service that enables cars to interact with roads and traffic lights powered by sensors and computer vision technology.

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