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Daily Drip

China is Building Underground Magnetic Cars That Deliver Your Shopping

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An up-and-coming industrial area in northern China plans to build an underground loop delivery system that will utilize magnetically suspended container cars to deliver goods autonomously. The system, developed by JD Logistics, could be a precursor for other Chinese cities struggling to improve efficiency amid urban congestion and swelling online retail sales.

The system will be built in Xiong’an New Area, a development zone in Hebei province that was thrust into the limelight two years ago when economic policymakers announced its importance as a linchpin of a planned integration between Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei, sometimes called the Jing-Jin-Ji metropolitan region. The recently-opened Daxing Airport is another key component in this integration.

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Some were surprised by the inclusion of Xiong’an, a rural area with little industry. Observers suggested the development zone was a pet project of Chinese President Xi Jinping, wanting a legacy city akin to Deng Xiaoping’s Shenzhen. Located about 80 miles southwest of Beijing, Xiong’an New Area could receive some 4 trillion RMB (580 billion USD) in investment over the next 20 years.

Its obscurity has given Xiong’an’s city-planners the opportunity to start from scratch and undertake ambitious infrastructure initiatives — they were able to decide on docking points for the underground magnetic delivery system without worrying about pre-existing underground facilities. According to an article in Henan Business Daily, the city plans to build the underground magnetic delivery system within two to three years.

The delivery loop will pass a designated trail of buildings that serve as drop-off points for packages. Were the system to be replicated in more developed cities, it could work in coordination with existing transportation infrastructure such as metro tunnels, according to the article.

Zach Hollo
    J. Zach Hollo is a RADII contributor currently based in Guangzhou. He recently competed a master's degree in international affairs at National Chengchi University in Taipei, where he studied as a Fulbright scholar. Before that, he taught English in China's Hunan and Henan provinces. As an undergraduate, he attended Northwestern University's campus in Doha, Qatar, where he majored in journalism.