Didi Chuxing’s Robotaxis Soon to Deploy in Shanghai
COVID-19 and China
Didi robotaxis ready to be deployed. Image Credits: Didi Official Website

Users soon will experience Didi’s self-driving cars in Shanghai, reconfirmed by head of Didi’s AI Labs and Didi Chuxing VP, Ye Jieping (叶杰平) at the 2019 Zhongguancun Forum (中关村论坛).

Didi has already been given the permit to test its autonomous vehicles in Shanghai and is eager to test out its self-driving pickup service on everyday citizens. The first test fleet will deploy 30 different models of Level 4 autonomous vehicles and will have the ability to cover over 10 kilometers per ride.

Ye also spoke on the redefining of the transportation within the next 10 years. According to him, the three major transformations in this sector will be in transportation infrastructure, mobility and transportation tools, and shared mobility services. All three areas will be deeply dependent upon AI technology. 

Machine learning and AI are already used by Didi in many ways, according to Ye.

“For instance, concerning travel safety, we use big data and AI technology to find hot-spots for traffic incidents, discern amongst many different poor driving behaviors…and based on this data, employ machine learning, data mining and other methods to build a picture of the individual, street, intersection…in order to warn the driver ahead of time if, say, there was a relatively dangerous intersection up ahead.” 

All self-driving rides will be free and users will be able to call for an autonomous vehicle through the Didi app. The company intends to begin their trial program with a mixed dispatching model, meaning there will still likely be a human driver in the car.

Earlier this year, Didi turned its autonomous self-driving unit into an independent company, led by Didi’s CTO Zhang Bo (张博). This follows the footsteps of Google’s decision to spin off its autonomous self-driving unit, Waymo, into an independent subsidiary in 2016. Didi’s newly independent unit has around 200 employees and conduct R&D in both China and the United States. 

Didi’s biggest rival in China, search engine and AI giant, Baidu, also launched a trial self-driving robot taxi service in Changsha, Hunan earlier this September, as the competition to lead the market in autonomous driving services continues. Last year, the testing of autonomous vehicles was led by Baidu, who registered 140,000 kilometers in Beijing out of the total 153,000 registered test-driven miles by eight companies, including Didi, (小马智行), Tencent, NIO, Audi, Daimler AG and BAIC Group.

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