- Terrible smog has made China leading market for electric cars
- Driverless technology may also help improve atrocious road safety record
- Growth worries may cause government to hedge bet on disruptive technology
Before economic reforms started in 1978, private ownership of automobiles in China was illegal and urban roads were jammed with bicycles. Since then, car ownership has become widespread, if not yet universal. In 2009, car sales reached 13.9 million vehicles, compared with 10.4 million in the United States, making China the world’s largest car market.
There were 76 million cars on the road in 2009. Six years later, according to China’s Ministry of Public Security, that number had soared to 172 million, producing a private car ownership ratio of 31 per 100 households. The number of licensed Chinese drivers exceeded 280 million in 2015, and 21.1 million passenger cars were sold in the country that year.