Daimler has become the first automaker outside of China to receive a road test license for Level 4 autonomous driving in Beijing. With this in place, Mercedes-Benz vehicles will now begin real-world road tests to further hone self-driving technologies in the Chinese capital, which the company says presents “unique and complex urban traffic situations.”

Mercedes-Benz test vehicles equipped with technical applications by Baidu Apollo underwent extensive testing at the National Pilot Zones for Intelligent Mobility in Beijing and Hebei in order to qualify for the license, where test drivers also received intensive training for automated driving.

“Backed by strong local partners, our research and development in China results in concrete innovations that allow us to achieve sustainable development today and into the future,” said head of Mercedes-Benz research and development in China Prof. Dr. Hans Georg Engel.

“This expanded research into automated driving will provide a strong base for developing further automated driving technology that addresses the challenges posed by China’s unique traffic environment, in order to further ensure that our technology and products offer the safety and convenience our customers expect,” he continued.

Daimler has also extended its cooperation with local partners in China towards expanding research and development in automated driving and vehicle safety, where the automaker is researching safer autonomous driving with Baidu through the open-source Apollo autonomous driving platform.

The eventual goal is to have a deep understanding of the special requirements for automated driving in China, as well as to develop an early intuition for local technical trends, the company said. Daimler and China’s Tsinghua University’s joint Research Center for Sustainable Transportation have also supported research related to sustainable transport in a China-specific environment.

This includes data gathering on typical traffic situations, research on ‘vision-based detection of vulnerable road users’ (VRU), as well as the creation of digital models of East Asian human body proportions for more accurate simulation of crash tests.

Previously, the company had also previewed the Mercedes-Benz Vision Van, an all-electric cargo transport vehicle concept with a range of 270 km that is fully connected and can deliver its payload autonomously.