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China's Changan to start mass-producing autonomous car

UNI-T will be first mass-market Chinese auto to offer hands-free driving

Chongqing Changan Automobile's UNI-T can operate without a driver holding the wheel under certain conditions.

BEIJING -- China's state-owned Chongqing Changan Automobile will begin mass production this month of passenger vehicles that can drive themselves under certain conditions, in what the automaker says is a first for the country.

The UNI-T is a "level 3" autonomous vehicle that can drive without a human operating the steering wheel or brakes. The self-driving functionality is expected to be limited to certain areas designated by local governments.

Changan announced its plans at an event Tuesday in Chongqing with senior city government officials.

European and U.S. companies such as Alphabet unit Waymo have led the way in autonomous-driving technology, though Chinese search engine giant Baidu bested the Google affiliate in one key indicator in a recent report. In Japan, Honda Motor plans to roll out a level 3 self-driving car this year.

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