GM China Group is calling on the Chinese government to assist in developing an Internet-based mobility system that will allow electric “smart cars” to communicate with each other and their surroundings in order to travel autonomously without drivers.

GM China President and Managing Director Kevin Wade makes the pitch in a paper delivered at an information technology forum in the east China seaport city of Ningbo.

If it is done right, the EVs of the future will zip driverless over urban roadways that don’t require traffic lights, because the cars will talk to each other electronically, keep their distance, adjust their own speeds and watch out for and avoid obstacles, Wade says.

Much of the technology to make this happen already exists, Wade says, adding the movement toward Internet-based mobility is under way.

“The mobility Internet offers the promise of wirelessly connecting vehicles to vehicles, vehicles to buildings and vehicles to the infrastructure,” Wade says in a transcript of his remarks.

“Vehicles will have the ability to sense their surroundings. By virtually connecting to each other, they will move like schools of fish in the ocean, crossing intersections without the need for traffic lights.”

He says these driverless EVs will expand personal transportation opportunities for the elderly and the disabled. They’ll be able to be summoned and remotely parked using a hand-held controller and connect to smart electrical grids to recharge automatically while parked.

“Some have compared today’s cars to the 1980s desktop computer, before the arrival of the Internet and e-mail,” Wade says.

Some of the technology exists in General Motors Co.’s Electric Networked Vehicle (EN-V) unveiled in late March and currently being showcased at the SAIC-GM Pavilion at the World Expo 2010 Shanghai.

“Building blocks that enable autonomous capabilities such as lane departure warning, blind zone protection and adaptive cruise control are being used in some GM cars on the road today,” Wade says.

“China is in a great position to become a leader in making the mobility Internet happen,” he adds. “China has a supportive central government, a strong research capability, and a thriving automotive industry without the entrenched motor-vehicle infrastructure that the U.S., Japan and Western Europe have.

“In fact, we see Shanghai and China becoming an epicenter for the establishment of personal mobility solutions for the future.”

GM China and the automotive industry need to work with government, urban planners and infrastructure experts to ensure the right environment is created for the smart EVs and related autonomous vehicles, Wade says.

The broader information technology industry has to assist by developing the virtual information infrastructure the mobility Internet requires, he says.