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China’s transportation industry leaders weigh in on Covid-19 impact

The coronavirus pandemic could provide boost to newer modes of transportation in China, such as making autonomous driving more mainstream, a panel of industry leaders told CNBC.

The Covid-19 outbreak accelerated the commercialization of autonomous aerial vehicles — or driverless drones — which were used to transport goods, medical supplies and even passengers to and from quarantine zones, Edward Xu, chief strategy officer at Chinese drone manufacturer EHang, told Arjun Kharpal during the virtual CNBC Evolve Global Summit on Wednesday.

The Guangzhou-headquartered company made headlines in 2016 when it revealed a passenger drone concept.

Pony.ai self-driving cars run along a road during a trial run on February 1, 2018 in Guangzhou, China.

VCG | Visual China Group | Getty Images

“Going forward, we are working with … Chinese government officials to accelerate the commercialization of our product,” Xu said, adding that the company has had two meetings with regulators and aims to have its passenger drones certified within two years.

Chinese driverless car start-up Pony.ai has sent some of its unmanned cars to ferry medical workers to Covid-affected areas and transport much needed goods. It showed people how new technology can be used to fight a pandemic, according to founder and CEO James Peng.

“What we can imagine that after the post-pandemic era, people will get more familiar, more comfortable with fully driverless vehicles and we are ready to push that,” he added.

Rising demand in urban mobility

Read more about electric vehicles from CNBC Pro

Even after the pandemic, the trend is likely to stay, according to Li. He said people in China are likely to continue commuting on scooters as they offer more freedom compared with public transport.

“We don’t see the trend of people going back to public transportation. Lots of people are starting to get used to those individual mobility devices and I think that’s a good trend for us,” Li added.

Challenges ahead

Read More: China’s transportation industry leaders weigh in on Covid-19 impact

2021-06-17 20:18:40

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