6 December 2019

POLICY WATCH: A smarter way to unknot China’s traffic jams

China’s big cities are notorious for their traffic jams but Beijing is betting that a Ministry of Transport-led alliance will go a long way to getting people and goods from A to B more quickly and efficiently. 

The ministry has signed up 45 overseas and domestic telcos and car companies to combine their know-how to create an “intelligent transport system”. The idea is to use all kinds of technology such as smartphone apps and sensors to unknot traffic congestion throughout the country. It will integrate advances by transport, electronics, logistics and information companies to set standards for systems like smart-bus networks and real-time data analysis for cloud-based public transport and logistics platforms.

Among the alliance’s big names are chipmaker Intel Inc, carmaker Volkswagen China, China Telecom Corp. Ltd., telecoms equipment maker Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. and geographical information software developer AutoNavi.

The development of an intelligent transport system is expected to have the added benefits of improving air quality and supporting the country’s push towards a more services-oriented economy. 

It’s anticipated that on top of government infrastructure spending, private investment will be encouraged in the sector to speed up the transport network’s coverage.

And the investment can’t come soon enough. China is forecast to have more than 200 million cars on its roads in 2020, making the need for fuel and infrastructure efficiencies even greater.

Until now, China has mostly relied on traditional ways such as traffic-tracking cameras, electronic bus arrivals boards, satellite navigation and electronic toll systems to monitor flow on the roads. But new technologies offer other possibilities.

Smartphone apps, for example, could be used to notify legions of China’s 1 billion-plus mobile phone users in real time about bus operations and highway traffic congestion.

Tests are already under way to see what differences links between vehicles and infrastructure can make. Buses will be fitted in some areas with sensors to alert drivers about the timing of upcoming green lights and suggests bus speeds.

If all goes well, the intelligent transport system will be in place by 2015.

– Contact the reporter at [email protected]


    EJ Insight writer