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China Wants Its Carmakers to Use a Homegrown Version of GPS

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  • Government promotes state-developed Beidou system for cars
  • GPS is maintained by U.S., was developed with defense funding

China is encouraging automakers to install its answer to the U.S.-developed Global Positioning System and advance autonomous driving technology as part of a broader push to upgrade the country’s transportation sector.

The government will promote the state-developed Beidou Navigation Satellite System as the standard configuration for vehicle-navigation devices and smartphones, according to a plan issued Friday by the National Development and Reform Commission and Ministry of Transport.

The policy also encourages carmakers to install anti-collision warning systems and develop the technology essential to autonomous driving through the use of big data and cloud computing. Private investment will be encouraged in the construction and operation of intelligent transport systems, according to the plan.

“In the long run, Beidou will catch up and be a very good supplement to GPS,” said Gao Hongbo, a Beijing-based analyst with Huatai Securities Co. “I know some automakers are designing their cars to be able to receive signals from both GPS and Beidou.”

China has pushed for the adoption of its own satellite positioning system as it aims for global coverage by 2020. The Beidou system was developed to meet China’s national security needs and economic development, according to a white paper released by the State Council Information Office in June.

With a total of 285 million motor vehicles on its roads as of the end of June, installing the Beidou on China’s vehicle fleet will greatly increase the civilian use of the positioning system. The transport ministry directed nine provinces in 2013 to install Beidou on buses and vehicles transporting hazardous materials, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

GPS was developed using U.S. Defense Department funding and is maintained by the government.