On 29 December 2017, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) and the Standardization Administration of China (SAC) jointly issued the National Guidelines for Developing the Standards System of the Telematics Industry (Intelligent and Connected Vehicles) (国家车联网产业标准 体系建设指南 (智能网联汽车), the ICV Guidelines).

The term intelligent and connected vehicles (“ICV”) has been repeatedly referred to under various policy documents. Under the ICV Guidelines, ICV is defined as a future generation of vehicles, equipped with advanced in-car sensors, controllers, actuators and other devices and integrated with modern communication and network technologies, which are able to achieve the exchange and sharing of intelligent information between vehicles and X other factors such as individuals, vehicles, roads and cloud, have functions allowing awareness of complex surroundings, intelligent decision making and collaborative control, are able to realize “safe, efficient, comfortable, energy saving” driving, and ultimately would realize driving operations in replacement of human beings. With this broad definition, both connected vehicles and autonomous / driverless vehicles would fall within the scope of ICV.

The ICV Guidelines are the second official document in a series of guidelines issued by the Chinese government for the establishment of the standard systems for the industry of telematics (or literally translated as Internet of Vehicles). The drafts for three additional guidelines have been issued by MIIT and SAC on 25 September 2017, including (i) the National Guidelines for Developing the Standards System of the Telematics Industry (Overall Requirements) (国家车联网产业标准体系建设指南 (总体要求)), (ii) the National Guidelines for Developing the Standards System of the Telematics Industry (Information Communication) (国家车联网产业标准体系建设指南 (信息通信)), and (iii) the National Guidelines for Developing the Standards System of the Telematics Industry (Electronic Products and Services) (国家车联网产业标准体 系建设指南 (电子产品和服务)). This series of guidelines, especially the seemingly expedited finalization and issuance of the ICV Guidelines, shows the Chinese government’s particular ambition and efforts to boost the development of China’s ICV sector.

Several key points relating to China’s standardization plan concerning ICV are set forth in the ICV Guidelines, including: (i) two phases of standardization, including a first phase by 2020 covering standards of driver assistance and low-level automated driving, and a second phase by 2025 covering standards of high-level automated driving; (ii) the framework of ICV standards, including the basic standards, the general specifications, the product and technology applications, and the associated standards; and (iii) formulation of 99 standards applicable to ICV with a priority list of 24 standards to be formulated in the near future.

Most of the standards to be formulated are intended to be voluntary standards, except that the following five will be mandatory: (1) the data recording system for vehicle incidents, under the category of information exchange (in the priority list); (2) the general rules for vehicle warning signals, under the category of human-machine interface; (3) the performance requirements and testing methods for human-machine control switch system, under the category of human-machine interface; (4) the requirements and assessment methods for ICV human-machine interface system failure protection, under the category of function safety; and (5) the requirements and assessment methods for autonomous driving recording device, under the category of information exchange.

The ICV Guidelines include a standalone paragraph that states the need to analyze ICV technology-related provisions in the current standard regulations, gradually eliminate any legal barriers that may impede the development of the new technology, and establish a favorable policy environment for the ICV development. The ICV Guidelines also encourage the enterprises to play a leading role in the standardization process for the ICV sector. These statements are in line with the newly amended PRC Standardization Law (中华人民共和国标准化法, the “Standardization Law”)), which has just entered into force as of 1 January 2018 after nearly three decades’ implementation of its prior version.

Under the Standardization Law, “standards” refer to the technical requirements that need to be unified for such fields as agriculture, industry, the service sector, and social undertakings. There are two types of standards in terms of binding force and effect: mandatory standards and voluntary standards. Mandatory national standards shall be formulated for any technical requirements that safeguard human health, safety of life and property, national security and the security of the ecological environment, and that meet the fundamental needs of economic and social management. Mandatory standards must be complied with and only include national standards. For other technical requirements, it is recommended to adopt and implement voluntary standards, which could be national standards, industry standards or local standards. Apparently, these principles have been taken into consideration during the standard formulation process in the ICV Guidelines.

The Standardization Law encourages enterprises to participate in the standardization process. It provides that recognition and rewards will be given to entities and individuals that have made prominent contributions to the standardization work. Enterprises may propose to the administrative department of standardization under the State Council to set up projects for mandatory national standards. Also, before initiating a process of formulating mandatory or voluntary standards, certain survey shall be carried out to understand the real demands of, among the others, enterprises, to evaluate the necessity and feasibility of the formulation of the proposed standards. It is also provided in the Standardization Law that enterprises may design their own standards based on their own needs, or formulate standards in collaboration with other enterprises. Article 20 of the Standardization Law specifically provides that China supports the use of independent innovative technologies in formulating group standards and corporate standards for important industries, strategic emerging industries, critical common technologies, and other fields.

As the technical standards, especially the mandatory ones, will play a fundamental role in regulating China’s ICV sector once being finalized and put into effect, the market players involved in the industry of connected vehicles and autonomous / driverless vehicles are recommended to closely monitor the formulation status of the mandatory standards for ICV. At the same time, market players are advised to consider exploring the possibility of formulating group standards and corporate standards which may be incorporated into or taken into consideration by the SAC in the process of formulating the standards applicable to ICV.

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