China could take the lead in the self-driving car market because of its ability to make regulatory decisions relatively quickly, according to an investment advisory firm.
Driver-less technology is one of several sources of disruption that traditional automakers are facing today. While many U.S. start-ups and large companies have been extensively working on this new technology, there's another important factor to consider in the nascent market, Michael Dunne, president at Dunne Automotive, told CNBC.
"There's more to it than just technology. Regulation matters a lot," Dunne said at the sidelines of Fortune Global Forum in Guangzhou, China.
Given how new driver-less technology is, regulators will have to do a lot of work to firm up laws that will govern autonomous driving in the future.
That, according to Dunne, is where China and Chinese companies have an edge because of how the decision-making process works in Beijing. He said that the "Chinese government can, and will, facilitate autonomous driving sooner than we will in the United States, for example. China could take the lead very easily because of this."
"It's not without precedent here in China that they make a decision and tomorrow morning at 6 a.m., the expressway from Guangzhou to Shenzhen is now autonomous-only. Any objections? Okay great, here we go," he explained as an example of how quickly decision-making could work in the country, which is governed by a single political party.
At the same time, Chinese companies are also catching up with their Silicon Valley counterparts when it comes to developing more sophisticated driver-less technology. That is being done through major Chinese investments into California to conduct research and development around autonomous technology, Dunne said.
For example, earlier this year, Uber rival Didi Chuxing set up a research and development center in Mountain View, California. A team of scientists, engineers and researchers will look into the use of artificial intelligence in security and intelligent driving technologies, the company said.
"I'm talking about billions of dollars, thousands of employees — getting first-class talent from Apple, Google, and Tesla to say 'Hey we'll do our R&D in California, design in California, we'll commercialize back in China.' That's the formula to look for," he added.