You may have thought we were years away from people accepting electric cars, much less driverless ones like the Prius fleet Google has been testing on Nevada’s roads. But China has now stepped into the driverless car race with its Hongqi HQ3 driverless car from the National University of Defense Technology, indicating that the global automotive industry may move more quickly than anyone anticipated toward self-driving cars. The Hongqi HQ3 demonstrated last month that not only could it stay on the road (at least during the day and in fair weather), but it could also easily navigate highway traffic at an average speed of 54 miles per hour, passing other cars on the road from Changsha to Wuhan cities, about a three-and-a-half-hour drive.
The Hongqi HQ3 overtook 67 other cars while on its test run, while the team monitoring the car’s test run sat back and enjoyed themselves. “We only set a maximum speed and then left everything to the car itself,” said professor Dai Bin to China Daily of the trip. The HQ3 didn’t navigate dense city traffic on this expedition, but it is still a significant step toward driverless cars hitting the market, and an indication that Google has competition in the race toward automatic cars. For city driving, Google is on the case with its Prius fleet in San Francisco. Check out the TEDTalk video above with Google’s Sebastian Thrun to see the Google Prius fleet working its way through San Fran’s trickiest traffic obstacles.