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French car maker Renault, together with local partners, has opened China's first experimentation zone for self-driving cars in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

An electric autonomous driving (AD) car by Renault will operate on a 2-km-long lakeside road in the Sino-French Wuhan Ecological Demonstration City in Wuhan, capital of Hubei Province, with effect from next weekend.

Visitors will be allowed to test and experience the autonomous vehicle in the zone, which was jointly built by the Renault Group, its Sino-French joint venture Dongfeng Renault Automotive Company (DRAC) and Wuhan Caidian Ecological Development Group.

According to the car maker, autonomous systems can make car travel safer, less stressful and more enjoyable by making decisions in tedious conditions, such as congested traffic.

Under a memorandum of understanding signed between the three parties, Renault provides construction standards for demonstration sites and vehicles equipped with autonomous driving technology, while DRAC is responsible for vehicle maintenance and technical support.

Renault plans to gradually introduce this "eyes off" technology on its core range of vehicles by 2020. Drivers are also expected to be able to take advantage of in-car connectivity safely when conditions and the law permit.

New energy vehicle sales double

Meanwhile the sales of green vehicles, or new-energy vehicles, in China almost reached up to half a million in sale units (402,800) by the end of last November.
This is a near double figure of year on year growth. And the production for 2016 accounts for 40% of the world's total, the China Association of Automobile Manufactures (CAAM) said.

According to the same company, the total vehicle sales, including both regular and new energy cars in China increased 14% year on year, totaling 24.94 million units by the end of November.

China is predicted to be the first country in the world with annual vehicle sales exceeding 25 million units, predicted Asahi Shimbun on Tuesday.

The domestic new energy vehicle industry is going through rapid development, says Xu Yanhua, vice secretary-general of CAAM.

The breakthrough in core technologies, a clearer industry chain, and an increased willingness to buy from consumers have resulted in expanded markets for alternative-fuel vehicles, Jiefang Daily reports.

In the last decade, the battery, or the heart of the new energy cars has made significant progress. Two battery technologies have seen an increase in efficiency and battery life in the last 10 years.

At present, the homemade lithium iron phosphate battery and ternary li-ion battery have doubled in its monomer energy density than a decade ago, explains Guo Wei, GM of Beijing National Battery Technology.

"It means that China already has the strength and confidence in the coming global competition of new-energy vehicles." Guo added, placing China's industry within a global context.

Charging infrastructure is embracing a favorable policy period. By the end of October, over a hundred thousand public electric vehicle charging stations in China existed, a dramatic year-on-year growth of 118%. Private charging points exceeded 170,000 as well.

In China's 12th Five-Year-Plan, a fast charging network on expressways across Beijing, Tianjin, North China's Hebei province and the Yangtze River Delta regions have been established, covering over 11,000 km of expressways.

China's next Five-Year-Plan (13th) will see a 36,000 km coverage of charging stations, along with an estimated investment infrastructure total of CHY160 billion ($2.3 billion) to CHY180 billion ($2.6 billion), reports Jiefang Daily.