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Driving the Economy


Text by Jiang Zhuqing

On April 4, news from New York Auto Show 2012 stunned many Chinese drivers who had been battling traffic jams daily: The world’s first car with wings, developed by Terrafugia, was revealed! Like transformers, the car features foldable wings, allowing it to take off in a short time.

Flying cars have long-dominated fantasies of frustrated drivers around the world, but for Beijing drivers particularly, the car sounds like a dream come true. Everyday, Ms. Chen has to trek far from her Tiantongyuan home in Beijing’s northeastern corner to her office in the city proper. “I have to leave for work two hours early to deal with traffic jams every morning,” Chen lamented, “and after work, I can never escape.”

A real-time congestion map from the department of traffic glows red across the city during peak commuting hours. One of Beijing’s major headaches, traffic has become a bottleneck limiting the city’s development.

Yao Jingyuan, a researcher with the Councilor’s Office of the State Council, pointed out, “Traffic congestion plagues not only municipalities but also less-populated counties in China. Driving and parking have been constant problems.”

Statistics from the traffic authority of the Ministry of Public Security reveal that by the end of August 2011, 219 million motor vehicles were operating in China. Some refer to China’s 30-year auto industry´s development as “mythical” when comparing current figures to automobile output in 1978: 150,000. The number of cars on roads increased so fast that related infrastructure hasn’t yet developed to support them.

Traces

It has been 130 years since the world’s first “horseless carriage” was introduced. In 1885, German engineer Karl Benz (1844-1929) invented the world’s first gasoline-powered automobile and obtained a patent on January 29, 1886 - the universal birthday of automobiles. The United States’ era of automobiles dawned before World War I thanks to Ford’s game-changing assembly lines, while cars entered daily European life in places such as Italy, Britain, France, and Germany only after World War II, reaching a zenith between the 1960s and 70s.

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