Fake tech: China’s ‘straddling bus’ – China’s latest society and culture news

Society & Culture

A summary of the top news in Chinese society and culture for June 22, 2017. Part of the daily SupChina newsletter, a convenient package of China’s business, political, and cultural news delivered to your inbox for free. Subscribe here.

Video renderings of a designed-in-China “straddling bus” that would allow street traffic to move freely beneath its elevated passenger carriage and between its wheels became a viral sensation in 2016. But the whole thing appears to have been little more than a scam.

A 300-meter-long test-drive track for the Transit Elevated Bus (TEB) project, also known as “Batie” 巴铁, is scheduled to be dismantled by the end of June, a local government official said on June 21, according to the Global Times.

The “straddling bus” was hailed as the future of transport by the local government in Beidaihe, Hebei Province, where it was to be made. However, soon after its inaugural test run, the project began to attract criticism.

Chinese state media first labeled the project as a fraudulent crowdfunding or peer-to-peer (P2P) investment scheme. Huaying Kailai 华赢凯来, the parent company of TEB Tech, which was to produce the bus, had reportedly raised billions of yuan online by convincing investors that they were getting in on the ground floor of the next big thing. But it seems that the company has spent less than 200 million yuan ($29.2 million) on research and development. There was also confusion about whether the project had ever been approved by local authorities, as many government departments denied any relationship. Critics also questioned the feasibility of the concept: how the bus would turn corners, whether it was strong enough to sustain its own weight and that of passengers, and how long its battery would last.

According to an article by CNN in December 2016, TEB’s backers were in financial trouble amid rising doubts about the legitimacy of the project. Moreover, the vehicle sat idle at the test site, which, as opposed to its initial goal, only caused inconvenience to local traffic.

Online, not many internet users were surprised by its failure. On the social media platform Weibo, one commenter wrote (in Chinese), “I knew it was a scam at the very beginning. Many people didn’t believe me, saying I couldn’t be smarter than the government. Such a joke!”