Chinese unmanned automobiles will embark on a test drive from Beijing to its neighboring city of Tianjin next year, covering a linear distance of some 120 km, according to the National Natural Science Foundation.
Without an onboard human presence, the vehicles are designed to perceive their environment, process it and respond accordingly with the help of GPS, ultrasonic radar and a variety of sensors.
In addition to the 2013 test, the vehicles are scheduled to undergo a longer test drive from Beijing to the city of Shenzhen in south China's Guangdong Province, located some 2,400 km away, sources from the foundation said at a Thursday press conference.
The development of unmanned automobiles is part of a major research project on the cognition and calculation of visual and audio information that was initiated by the foundation in 2008.
Zheng Nanning, head of an expert panel for the project, said the country's research in unmanned automobiles, despite seeing a series of technological breakthroughs, still lags behind the global level.
Zheng, also president of Xi'an Jiaotong University, said more factors need to be taken into account, as the country's driving conditions are more complicated.