Didi Chuxing Spins Off its Autonomous Driving Unit as an Independent Company

Didi Chuxing Spins Off its Autonomous Driving Unit as an Independent Company

Author: Eric Walz   

Didi Chuxing, the world's largest transportation provider, announced that it has spun off its autonomous driving unit into an independent company. Didi said new unit will continue to focus on research and development, product application, and business development related to autonomous driving technologies. 

DiDi's CTO, Zhang Bo, will lead the new autonomous driving company as its CEO. Meng Xing, former Executive Director at Shunwei China Internet Fund, will become COO of the company. Jia Zhaoyin and Zheng Jianqiang will lead an autonomous driving R&D team in the United States and China, respectively. All three will report directly to Zhang.

"The new company looks forward to further strategic collaborations with auto makers and industry partners to promote the application of self-driving technologies in people's everyday lives." Zhang Bo said in a statement. 

The new autonomous driving unit will integrate the resources and technological advantages of DiDi's platform, continue to increase investment in R&D of core innovative technologies, and deepen collaboration with upstream and downstream auto industry partners. 

DiDi will apply its experience and understanding of safe operations in the ride-hailing sector to autonomous driving operations. Meanwhile, the company will work with the transportation authorities and all related parties to explore the safety standards for autonomous driving operations.  

Didi is reportedly in talks with SoftBank to raise funding for the new company, The Information reported last month.

In a statement, Cheng Wei, Chairman and CEO of DiDi, said "Autonomous driving will greatly enhance the safety and efficiency of travel, and help cities to be smarter and more sustainable. Technology serves people; in the future, people's transportation needs in different scenarios will be met by the combination of seamless autonomous driving technology and human driving services that are indispensable for their quality and warmth. Technology will be fully integrated with the ultimate goal of service."

The company will actively explore the promotion of self-driving technologies with transportation authorities in order to create a more efficient and safer mobility environment. Like Uber, Didi is developing autonomous driving technology for its ride-hailing business as a way to lessen its reliance on drivers and increase efficiency.

Both Didi and Uber fought a fierce two-year battle for market share in China, with each company pouring billions of dollars into fare subsidies to compete for both drivers and passengers. In 2016, Didi took over Uber's ride-hailing business in China after Uber failed to break into the Chinese market.

Didi is also competing globally with Uber, especially in Latin America. In June, Didi launched services in Chile and Colombia, as part of its expansion into Latin America. A Reuters report from earlier this year said that Didi was recruiting managers in Chile, Peru and Colombia as part of a planned launch to take on U.S. rival Uber.

DiDi's autonomous driving team was first established in 2016. Since then it has grown to a comprehensive R&D team covering all areas of autonomous driving, including HD mapping, perception, behavior prediction, planning and control, simulation, labeling, vehicle modifications, connected cars and vehicle security.

The team is developing and testing autonomous driving vehicles in China and the U.S. Didi is one of over 60 companies that was granted a autonomous vehicle testing permit by the California Department of Motor Vehicles to test driverless technology on public roads in the state. 

Eric Walz
Eric Walz
Originally hailing from New Jersey, Eric is a automotive & technology reporter covering the high-tech industry here in Silicon Valley. He has over 15 years of automotive experience and a bachelors degree in computer science. These skills, combined with technical writing and news reporting, allows him to fully understand and identify new and innovative technologies in the auto industry and beyond. He has worked at Uber on self-driving cars and as a technical writer, helping people to understand and work with technology.
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