Here’s How China Is Building the Car of the Future – by Sebastian Heilmann APRIL 24, 2016, 8:00 PM EDT

Employees assemble brake pads for BYD Co. S6 sport-utility vehicles (SUV) at the company’s assembly plant in the Pingshan district of Shenzhen, China, on Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. — Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg via Getty Images Photograph by Brent Lewin — Bloomberg via Getty Images

Beijing Motor Show begins on Monday.

The Detroit Auto Show has long set the tone for the global car industry, but a new player on the other side of the world could prove to be a bigger player. As the Beijing Motor Show begins on Monday, it’s worth taking a closer look at China’s auto industry.

True, China has a long way to go. The world’s second largest economy still doesn’t have any top-notch car manufacturers. Western companies look at the Chinese market as important for their sales, but not with regard to technological innovations.

Just how could China get the upper hand? The key race in the global automotive industry is all about the connected car – what China’s automotive industry leaders dubs the “Internet of Vehicles.” It is important to realize that China has a number of natural advantages in this arena – as well as less “natural” ones.

China’s first advantage is that it does not have to contend with the rather small, “balkanized” markets found in Western countries. That makes the required scaling up much easier in China than elsewhere.

The second is the ease of industrial and regulatory integration. Consider all the industries and sectors that have to align their interests and technologies in order to make the connected car a reality. These include smartphone makers, telecom firms, Internet companies, satellite navigation and traffic management firms, insurance firms, as well as car manufacturers themselves.

In Western countries, there are many established players, each with their own particular agendas and conflicting goals. These incumbents exercise a lot of power, both politically and in the marketplace itself. All too often, their primary objective is to jealously protect their own turf against any other company, sector or industry in the connectivity field – even if the net result is mutual paralysis.

Contrast that with China. There, industry operates in a more top-down way. Industrial policy, actively shaped by the government, is embraced, not resisted. There also is discernably more readiness to cooperate at the behest of the government. In addition, China’s domestic market is so large that most players have a sense that they should be able to get a viable share of the pie.

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Why future cars will be more fun – BBC News | 28 October 2014

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The imminent future of driverless cars promises to make driving safer and more efficient… but will this world be more fun? Maybe we’ll all forget how to steer a car, and the joys of the open road will become a thing of the past.

Tell that to Ben Abel, who helps run the Michelin Challenge Design, a project to discover cars of the future. On the contrary, he says, driverless cars inside cities could free up designers to focus on vehicles created for pleasure outside built-up areas.

Every year, Abel of Michelin Innovation Incubator in South Carolina and colleagues run a competition to encourage designers to submit their ideas for futuristic vehicles – and this year, the theme was “passion”. The weird and wonderful entries submitted ranged from cars with sails to a vehicle controlled by a driver suspended above the roof in a wingsuit.

Far-out? Perhaps. But as Abel told BBC Future at the World-Changing Ideas Summit in New York, the point of the challenge is to seek out ground-breaking ideas from all cultures and backgrounds. Fostering this creativity could lead to the next big advance in automotive design.

In the video above, Abel also told BBC Future what the one thing he thinks is needed for driverless cars to take off.

(Youngjai Jun/Gunyoung Yoon)

View all of the designs for the 2015 Michelin Challenge Design (Youngjai Jun/Gunyoung Yoon)