Volkswagen to test autonomous vehicles in Hefei, China

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Volkswagen AG stated on Wednesday it will begin testing autonomous vehicles in China’s eastern city of Hefei, its first in the world’s biggest auto market.

China has become a major attraction for trying out autonomous driving vehicles. Toyota-backed Pony.ai, Baidu Inc, Nissan-backed WeRide and Didi Chuxing are all testing autonomous vehicles in different cities as automakers and tech companies are spending billions in the technology.

Volkswagen, the biggest foreign automaker in China, will start conducting the test in Hefei with Audi’s e-tron electric sport utility vehicles from September, it stated. The test will be open to the public from 2021.

In May, Volkswagen stated it would spend 1 billion euros ($1.18 billion) to take a 50% stake in the state-owned parent of Chinese electronic vehicle group JAC. Volkswagen will also take full control of its current electric vehicle joint venture with JAC in Hefei by raising its stake to 75% from 50%.

Volkswagen also has ventures with state-owned China FAW Group and SAIC Motor.

The German automaker sold 1.59 million vehicles in China in the first six months of 2020, dropping 17% from 1.92 million vehicles in the same period in 2019. For all of 2019, Volkswagen sold about 4.23 million vehicles in the country.

In June, Volkswagen closed its $2.6 billion investment in self-driving startup Argo AI, in which Ford Motor also owns a stake.

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