Chinese leading ride-hailing platform DiDi Chuxing has launched its autonomous driving unit as an independent company.
Zhang Bo (张博) , which became the CEO of the newly founded firm, will continue serving as DiDi's CTO. Meng Xing (孟醒), executive director of Shunwei Capital (Xiaomi’s founder Lei Jun’s early-stage fund), will join the spinoff as COO. He led the investment of Xpeng Motors, an Electric Vehicle maker in China that races to develop the cutting-edge technology and poached a batch of talents from Silicon Valley. Jia Zhaoyin (贾兆寅) and Zheng Jianqiang (郑建强) will become the head of R&D team in the U.S. and China, respectively.
In cooperation with OEMs and various industrial partners, DiDi intends to apply its many years' experience to robotaxi business. DiDi also sets to explore safety practice rules in cooperation with authorities.
DiDi has R&D centers in the U.S. and China. DiDi has 200 members in the autonomous driving department since it launched in 2016, compared with Uber's 1,000 employees before ATG became a spin-off.
The ride-hailing giant grabbed 96% of market in 2018 Q2, according to Deloitte. Vast amount of data that has been collected since 2012 enables the firm to deeply understand the market, laying a decent foundation for the use of autonomous driving technology. But it cannot compete with startups like Pony.ai or Google's Waymo, as the testing results released by California’s Department of Motor Vehicles showed earlier this year.
“To compete with startups that focus on technology research, DiDi has to separate the department to incentive members, just like Google did to Waymo. ” Analyst familiar with the matter said.
Meanwhile, the company’s global nemesis Uber spun out ATG (Advanced Technologies Groups) earlier this year. It was valued at USD 7.25 billion in April 2019.