Beidou, China’s own competitor to GPS, has been officially available for civilian and commercial use since December 2012. It had previously been restricted to the Chinese military and government but now the Chinese government has mandated its use in several classes of vehicle across nine provinces.
The order comes after last year’s 100,000+ vehicle trial of Beidou across the nine regions. Now, all passenger buses and vehicles used for transporting “dangerous articles” must install BDS when it’s time to renew their on-board sat nav, while heavy-duty trucks and trailers need to be retrofitted with the same. The Ministry wants to have 80 per cent of such vehicles fitted with Beidou before March 2013 and all new vehicles in these categories to leave the factory with on-board Beidou terminals.
Why to build own sat-nav system?
The answer is pretty simple. Before launching Beidou, the Chinese relied on American GPS for military and domestic use. If China gets involved in a military conflict with a US ally, the United States can block access to GPS, causing a disadvantage for the Chinese military. With Beidou, China now has its own system for warship navigation, missile targeting and now for commercial use.
It’s the same reason why Europe is building its Gallileo system and Russia is works on their GLONASS. Basically to answer America’s GPS dominance, as the system is in fact run by the army.