Gansha Wu was a veteran engineering manager at Intel Corporation and director of Intel Labs China when two events upended his world last year.
First, he listened to the veteran technology writer Michael Malone tell an audience of Intel employees that if they were too cautious they would fail. Then he attended a leadership training session for Intel executives. The trainer told them that “to be a leader is to design a future that is unpredictable and which nobody bets on.”
He couldn’t sleep at night, thinking about his well-ordered, 16-year career at Intel. So he decided to take a risk. With four colleagues, he made the decision to take the uncertain path, which today is becoming more common in China than even in Silicon Valley: He quit his job to begin a start-up that specializes in autonomous, or self-driving, cars.
In the process, Mr. Wu hit upon a rare moment when a tech sector in China is developing in lock step with a similar but separate market in the United States.
In fact, some argue that conditions in China are actually more favorable for quick adoption of driverless cars, in part because of more aggressive support from the national and local governments. And, unlike in the United States, China never fully developed a romance with the open road and car ownership.
Car ownership has spiked in China, of course. And in recent years, it has become a middle-class status symbol to own a car. For the ultrawealthy, there are clubs dedicated to Ferraris and Maseratis.
But enormous traffic jams in China’s largest cities can make driving a less-than-romantic experience. Why not let a machine built with artificial intelligence inside do the work for you?
Research done by the Boston Consulting Group suggests that within 15 years China will be the largest market for autonomous vehicles, said Xavier Mosquet, a managing director at the firm. Automated taxis will most likely lead the trend.
“It’s not that people are more willing to use the cars in Beijing or Shanghai, it’s that the economic value is much higher in China than in the U.S.,” Mr. Mosquet said, adding that air pollution could be as much a catalyst as bad traffic.
The Latest on: Driverless car
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The Latest on: Driverless car
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