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Waymo Faces Roadblocks in China

China is the world’s biggest market for new cars, making it a hugely valuable place for global car makers to do business. But when it comes to autonomous vehicles, China is likely to impose severe restrictions on foreign companies, hurting firms like Alphabet’s Waymo in particular.

Chinese policy makers want to leapfrog the West and create their own cutting-edge driverless and electric cars. Government-backed investment funds are pouring money into self-driving car startups, while erecting barriers to protect the market. They hope to replicate the success of firms such as smartphone and telecommunications equipment maker Huawei that has caught up with and in some ways surpassed foreign competitors.

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“I fully expect that a Chinese company or companies will dominate the market,” said Michael Dunne, founder of Hong Kong-based consultancy Dunne Automotive. “Foreign companies will be marginal players.”

—Amir Efrati contributed to this article.

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“Local policy compliance is a high bar of potential barriers for multinational companies. The days of, you build a vehicle in one place and it runs everywhere, is over.”