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Innovation vital to solve urbanization challenges

Li Fusheng
Updated: Mar 23,2015 10:31 AM     China Daily

Innovation will help China better tackle the traffic and environmental challenges emerging in its urbanization drive, industry leaders said at the ongoing China Development Forum.

Roland Krueger, president of Infiniti Motor Co Ltd, said the auto industry is required to become a partner in the management of cities in order to address urbanization challenges.

“With breakthrough solutions in connective technologies, autonomous driving and new energy solutions, we have a very exciting vision for future cities, which is to be free of accidents, congestion, and emissions,” said the only invited speaker from premium automakers.

Statistics show that the urbanization rate reached 55 percent by the end of 2014 in China. Along with that result come some negative byproducts, including urban sprawl, traffic congestion and environmental concerns.

Earlier this month during the annual “Two Sessions”, Premier Li Keqiang said in his government work report that efforts must be stepped up to continue the fight against “urban diseases”, such as air pollution and traffic congestion, to improve people’s living standards.

While governments and regulators foster frameworks to address those issues, at its core the world is expecting new technology solutions, Krueger said, adding that the auto industry is uniquely positioned to come up with such innovations.

An ongoing trend is that cars are becoming the next smart mobile devices that will allow for communication, entertainment and socializing thanks to in-car mobile Internet technology. Infiniti also develops an infotainment system that allows access to digital radio, e-mail, navigation and many other functions.

Krueger said that connectivity will enable vehicles to do more things and successful car companies in the future will be mobility partners, with their business model expanding from products to services to systems to platforms.

“Our vehicles will still move around people and goods, but within a network provided through ultra-connectivity.

“This not only addresses mobility needs of the society and of individuals, it also provides for an expanded business model of the future.”

He said the seamless integration of Internet-based services with vehicles will be crucial in “smart mobility solutions to improve traffic flow, provide access to areas with inadequate public transport and provide individual on-demand services.”

Other guests with Krueger at the panel session themed “Innovation-Driven Urbanization” were Counselor of the State Council Qiu Baoxing, Volvo Group CEO Olof Persson, Greenland Holding Group’s Chairman and President Zhang Yuliang and ABB Group’s CEO Ulrich Spiesshofer.

Persson agreed that many challenges arising from the urbanization process in China and other countries alike are directly or indirectly related with infrastructure and transport. He said his company is conducting a pilot program of running fully electric buses in a Swedish city to cut carbon dioxide emissions.

China’s Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli made impromptu remarks about environmental protection as he addressed the opening ceremony of the China Development Forum, which is a sign of the government’s resolve to tackle pollution.

“We know it is a long-term, difficult and complicated task...but we will be responsible to our country and our people and will fight against pollution with greater determination and greater efforts,” he said, “We won’t let the people down.”

Another signal of the government’s effort to encourage environmentally friendly solutions is that the forum chose Infiniti’s hybrid vehicles as its official cars this year.

Infiniti is regarded as a forerunner in the use of hybrid technology on production cars with an emphasis on the balance between high performance and high efficiency.

It currently provides hybrid versions of its Q50, QX60 and Q70L models in China. “Our goal is to impact mobility now and towards the year 2025, in ways that improve quality of life and that are sustainable,” Krueger said.

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