Didi has raised US$500 million from Japan’s SoftBank for its autonomous driving subsidiary.
Didi’s launch of robotaxis in Shanghai comes just days after it announced plans to deploy more than one million self-driving vehicles through its platform by 2030
Globally, the market is projected to be worth US$65.3 billion by 2027, according to a report from Market Research Future
Commuters in Shanghai can now book self-driving taxis through Didi Chuxing after the Chinese ride-hailing giant launched its on-demand robotaxi service on the weekend.
Using the new app, passengers can take free rides in autonomous vehicles within designated open-traffic areas in Shanghai’s Jiading District as part of the pilot phase of the project.
“AI in transportation will no doubt revolutionise the safety and efficiency of the urban transit system,” said Cheng Wei, founder and CEO of Didi Chuxing. “Didi’s biggest strengths are in our rich use cases, data capabilities and long-term commitment to what we believe to be a clear direction for the future,” he said.
In addition to mandatory safety drivers in the vehicles to assist in emergency situations, Didi has deployed what it says is the country’s first safety control centre for real-time vehicle and road condition monitoring and enhanced remote control assistance. The centre is designed to handle future large-scale autonomous fleet operations, the company said.
However, Cheng said it will take at least a decade of continued investment before autonomous vehicle technology can meet critical technology, business and regulatory milestones. Until then, human drivers will still be required.
“Human driving services will be indispensable to the future mobility network and new kinds of work and careers will emerge as the autonomous industry chain expands,” Cheng said.
Didi’s launch of the robotaxi service in Shanghai comes just days after it announced plans to deploy more than one million self-driving vehicles through its platform by 2030. Last month, Didi raised US$500 million from Japan’s SoftBank for its autonomous driving subsidiary.
The autonomous vehicle industry has attracted billions of dollars of investment over the past few years, with major US players Alphabet, Tesla and General Motors launching high-profile self-driving car projects. Globally, the market is projected to be worth US$65.3 billion by 2027, according to a report from Market Research Future.
In China’s robotaxi market, Didi is facing fierce competition from several domestic players including Baidu, Pony.ai, AutoX and WeRide.
Baidu, which has developed the Apollo self-driving platform, has been trialling a robotaxi service in parts of Changsha, capital of Hunan province, since April.
Alibaba Group and autonomous driving start-up AutoX rolled out robotaxis in Shanghai in April, where passengers can order a robotaxi using Alibaba’s AutoNavi’s Amap app.