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China’s self-driving car testing is kicking into high-gear. Two autonomous vehicles built by Changan Automobile have completed a 2000 km journey in six days in a bid to stay ahead of Google’s own self-driving effort.

The vehicles set off from Changan’s headquarters in the southwestern city of Chongqing on 12 April in a groundbreaking test for the eastern giant. The cars crossed five provinces, reaching Beijing at around 5 pm on Sunday the 17th of April.

The cars achieved a maximum speed of 120 km per hour during the trial and successfully performed the required manoeuvres such as changing lanes, overtaking, maintaining a safe distance from other vehicles, and managed to complete three-point turns autonomously. Navigating petrol stations turned out to be a more challenging task, and they were assisted by human drivers. This isn’t full autonomy, but a very impressive success nonetheless.

Data from the test will be used for fine tuning and improvements, according to executive vice president of the Chang’an Automobile Engineering and Research Institute, Tan Benhong.

The company plans to mass produce and release autonomous vehicles as early as 2018, and highly autonomous vehicles by 2020.

“Changan is planning to start producing self-driving cars by the end of 2018, when people can see all the tested techniques on mass-produced cars,” Benhong said.

A report from the World Economic Forum released in November states that over 75 percent of surveyed Chinese drivers are willing to forego control and instead take a backseat to an AI driver, compared to just 58 percent globally.

This is in line with the general push in China to automate and reduce costs.

According to Bloomberg, for “China, the push for self-driving vehicles is also part of a broader state initiative urging manufacturers to upgrade their technology as lower-cost countries emerge and compete for labor-intensive factory jobs.”