China has been the forerunner when it comes to the latest technology and electric cars may be one of them.
Chinese carmakers are set to demonstrate their progress the development of self-driving vehicles at the Beijing International Automotive Exhibition, offering a snapshot of the emerging trends in the world's largest auto market.
In 2015, China even grabbed first place for developing electric car models, a race led by the United States and Europe, but the country is coming up fast with a regulatory structure. This could make the country lead the race with autonomous cars heading toward its highways and streets.
In the next three to five years, China could provide a draft road map for having high-way-ready and self-driving cars. These cars are expected to be seen on the streets by 2025 and the plan could be revealed this year, an automotive engineering professor said.
Li Keqiang from Tsinghua University, said the plan is backed by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. The plan will contain technical standards like common language for cars in order for them to communicate with each other and the infrastructures around them. It will also contain regulatory guidelines.
China has been faced with an air pollution crisis since carbon emissions have been setting record high levels in the past months. One way to curb this crisis is to develop self-driving cars that do not emit harmful gases.
In 2015, the country has set a new record for electric models with about 247,000 zero-emissions cars sold, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers said. Only 1 percent of cars are electric, and officials said that owning electric cars might be the solution to the air pollution problem.
"China is perhaps the one place in the world where the automobile industry can achieve the economy of scale needed to bring down costs," Jean-Francois Belorgey, an expert with consultancy EY, said.
The Chinese government provides subsidies to buyers up to about $8,500 for each car. Electric cars are exempted from traffic restrictions in major cities.
Critics believe that even if China has progressed in developing electric cars, these automobiles will never be completely green since they're powered by electricity that is produced in carbon-intensive ways. Ben Scott, an expert in electric cars, said that it could never deal with the greenhouse effect, but it addresses the issue of the concentration of particles.
Photo: Peter Dowley | Flickr