On March 1, 2019, the parent company of Didi Chuxing, the largest taxi-hailing App in China, has started a wholly owned subsidiary called Shanghai Didi Woya Technology Limited (上海沃芽科技有限公司).
In the newly established company ZHENG Jianqiang (郑建强) serves as the legal representative and executive director, while WU Rui (吴睿), co-founder at Didi Chuxing, serves as supervisor.
Woya will focus on the following: Internet-related technologies, transport equipment, intelligent driving, and self-driving.
This is not Didi's first attempt in the self-driving field
Back in 2017, shortly after its USD 4 billion funds, Didi declares it will spend some of its fundings into transport technology powered by AI.
In March 2017, it opened a self-driving research lab in Mountain View, California. In the same time, it has poached Charlie Miller (worked for National Security Agency and Uber & responsible for the infamous Jeep hack) and JIA Zhaoyin (senior software engineer at Waymo).
In November 2017, it established a map company called Ditu (滴图). High Definition Map is important to build self-driving technology and been widely believed it is the key to bring L5 into reality.
In January 2018, it opened an AI research lab, which will be led by Prof YE Jieping (叶杰平), vice president at Didi Chuxing, in Beijing. Now the team has around 200 scientists and engineers and still recruiting.
Now, Didi has begun to test self-driving in China and the states. It wishes self-driving cars could be released next year, reported by Leiphone.com.
Why Didi wants to step in the self-driving field?
Self-driving technology is still developing but seems to be an inevitable trend.
Self-driving has been an eye-catching concept. Traditional car manufacturers, tech startups and tech giants etc all wish to join the development commercialization of this technology. Goldman Sachs says the market for Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) and Autonomous Vehicles (AV) will reach USD 96 billion in 2025.
The two largest economies, namely the Chinese and the US government hold a supportive attitude towards self-driving. Autonomous driving legislation has been introduced in more than 24 states in the US. On the other side, China made Beijing as the first to run the open road test and Shanghai, Hangzhou, Chongqing, and Wuhan are expected to follow soon, says South China Morning Post.
Uber and Lyft, the two largest taxi-hailing apps are also closely following the self-driving trend.
Labor costs have been increasing for years. By adopting self-driving cars could significantly drop the operational costs down and bring the efficiency up.
The challenges that Didi might encounter
According to the data published by DMV, Uber was so lagging behind from the top 1 player - Waymo or other tier-1-to-2 players. However, Didi is even behind Uber for now.
This raises a thorny question that how long or will Didi be able to catch the technological gap.