CHONGQING: Even before Lee John Barrett, a 53-year-old YouTube vlogger, stepped into the 2020 Smart China Expo Online, he had already sensed how “smart” China was.
When Lee wanted to borrow a coin or a key to tighten up a screw of his camera bracket, he had no luck. He soon realized that keys and coins seem to have become a past in some parts of China.
“Many Chinese people now use mobile apps to make payments, so coins are rare,” Lee said. “I am surprised how unlocking doors with fingerprints instead of a bunch of keys is prevalent in China.”
“Chinese people’s lives are driven by intelligence and convenience,” he added.
At the expo held in southwest China’s Chongqing Municipality, Lee and his vlogging partner and son Oliver’s amazement skyrocketed on learning about the country’s cutting-edge tech development. A self-driving vehicle at the 2020 i-VISTA Autonomous Vehicle Grand Challenge, which was an important segment of the expo, left the vlogging-duo spellbound.
At the speed of 40 km per hour on a rainy day, the car was steadily and automatically moving on a slippery, zigzag road. “Everything was unknown to us, like the changing traffic lights and the cars parked in the middle of the road. But the car navigated itself without a driver controlling it manually, and it knew when to turn around, when to stop and when to move on,” said Lee.
“It is really weird and surreal, but we all know that stands for the future,” he added. The factory aura of Chinese automaker Chongqing Changan Automobile Co., Ltd., made Oliver feel like he was in some sci-fi movie scene.
More than 500 robots were operating simultaneously in several production lines, among which hundreds of mechanical arms were flexibly picking up, putting down and assembling different auto parts. “This was so splendid. These cars were totally made by machines,” said Oliver. “I barely saw people here. Where are the people?” Zou Tao, a staff member of the company, explained that almost the entire manufacturing process has been automated since 2017. “Earlier, the company needed more than 1,000 workers in these production lines, but now a workshop has only 360 workers for simple examination and adjustment,” Zou said. The three-day expo that closed Thursday is co-hosted by Chongqing and Singapore. A total of 551 companies and other institutions, including 148 foreign enterprises such as Intel, IBM and Siemens, took part in the online exhibitions of smart products and smart manufacturing, among others.