China’s transportation trade leaders weigh in on Covid-19 affect


Pony.ai self-driving automobiles run alongside a highway throughout a trial run on February 1, 2018 in Guangzhou, China.

VCG | Visible China Group | Getty Pictures

The coronavirus pandemic may present increase to newer modes of transportation in China, corresponding to making autonomous driving extra mainstream, a panel of trade leaders advised CNBC.

The Covid-19 outbreak accelerated the commercialization of autonomous aerial autos — or driverless drones — which have been used to move items, medical provides and even passengers to and from quarantine zones, Edward Xu, chief technique officer at Chinese language drone producer EHang, advised Arjun Kharpal in the course of the digital CNBC Evolve International Summit on Wednesday.

The Guangzhou-headquartered firm made headlines in 2016 when it revealed a passenger drone idea.

“Going ahead, we’re working with … Chinese language authorities officers to speed up the commercialization of our product,” Xu mentioned, including that the corporate has had two conferences with regulators and goals to have its passenger drones licensed inside two years.

An Ehang 216, a two-seater autonomous aerial car of drone maker EHang, is seen throughout its presentation in Vienna, Austria April 4, 2019.

Leonhard Foeger | Reuters

Chinese language driverless automobile start-up Pony.ai has despatched a few of its unmanned automobiles to ferry medical employees to Covid-affected areas and transport a lot wanted items. It confirmed folks how new know-how can be utilized to combat a pandemic, in keeping with founder and CEO James Peng.

“What we will think about that after the post-pandemic period, folks will get extra acquainted, extra comfy with totally driverless autos and we’re able to push that,” he added.

Rising demand in city mobility

Whereas the pandemic made many commuters cautious of public transportation, some turned to private mobility gadgets for his or her travels.

Chinese language electrical scooter maker Niu Applied sciences noticed a “big demand in particular person city mobility gadgets,” in keeping with CEO Yan Li. He mentioned the corporate shipped nearly 150,000 items of e-scooters within the first quarter.

Even after the pandemic, the pattern is prone to keep, in keeping with Li. He mentioned folks in China are prone to proceed commuting on scooters as they provide extra freedom in contrast with public transport.

“We do not see the pattern of individuals going again to public transportation. A number of individuals are beginning to get used to these particular person mobility gadgets and I feel that is an excellent pattern for us,” Li added.

Challenges forward

Mainstream adoption of autonomous autos faces quite a few challenges, in keeping with the trade leaders. Pony.ai chief Peng listed three points: technical development, regulation and shopper acceptance.

It takes time for purchasers to get used to the way it feels and perceive that autonomous driving is definitely safer and extra handy manner of transportation.

“I feel from the technical viewpoint, now we have made progress in leaps and bounds within the final a number of years,” he mentioned. Peng added that the corporate obtained a completely driverless testing allow in California and is about to obtain some in China as effectively.

Driverless autos have made loads of progress over time as corporations repeatedly examined their know-how to handle potential issues and stop accidents. Nonetheless, questions round security from the general public and regulators stay a significant hurdle in the best way of mainstream adoption.

Learn extra about electrical autos from CNBC Professional

Regulation is the “greatest bottleneck” relating to unmanned passenger drones, in keeping with EHang’s Xu.

“As a result of to this point there isn’t a regulation. There is no such thing as a priority previously which permit the AAV to fly over the city space,” he mentioned.

“Proper now, the scenario is changing into extra convincing as a result of we did deal with the trial flights over about 43 cities in 8 international locations with greater than 4,000 flights accomplished,” Xu added.

Convincing passengers to take both driverless automobiles or autonomous passenger drones additionally stays a significant impediment.

“That entrance, it takes time for purchasers to get used to the way it feels (and perceive that) autonomous driving is definitely safer and extra handy manner of transportation,” Peng mentioned.



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