Ride-Hailing Titan Didi Chuxing Launching Self-Driving Taxi Service in China
Waymo, Uber, General Motors' Cruise, these are just a few of the major companies looking into autonomous taxis in the U.S., but companies outside of America are considering the prospect of having a fleet of autonomous taxis to shuffle people around, too. Apparently, China's version of Uber, giant Didi Chuxing, announced plans to launch a self-driving taxi program in a district of Shanghai city, reports Reuters.
Pilot program To Start In Shanghai
Didi's Chief Technology Officer Zhang Bo told the outlet about the upcoming program at a recent conference. The service is similar to ones offered in the U.S. as it allows users to hail a taxi in Shanghai's Jiading district through an app. Users also have the choice of whether they want to be picked up in a self-driving car or a regular one. Choosing an autonomous vehicle means that passengers will get their ride for free.
According to Bo, human drivers will still be in the driverless vehicles at all times, presumably for safety reasons. Instead of offering one or a few models, like Waymo, which uses FCA's Chrysler Pacifica minivans and Jaguar I-Paces, Didi plans to offer roughly 30 different types of models for its pilot service. The vehicles will boast Level 4 autonomous capabilities, which means they'll be able to handle the majority of driving tasks on their own with little driver input.
The self-driving taxi service will begin in a few months, claims Bo. Currently, Didi is being held back by licenses, despite getting the necessary permits from government officials earlier this month.
Expansion Outside Of China Coming In 2021
While the self-driving program will begin in Shanghai, Didi has plans to expand down the road. Reuters claims two other Chinese cities, Beijing and Shenzhen, will be added to the list by next year. A year after that, the company is looking to move outside China.
As far as vehicles go, Didi could reach out to Toyota, which is a brand it recently entered into a venture with last month. The partnership was expected to focus on autonomous technology and mobility services, claims Bo. He believes that transportation technology providers will have to look to alliances to come out with the right combination of tech and cars to get services like autonomous taxis on the road.
"There will be no more than 3 alliances that can provide a real product," said Bo. "Self-driving vehicles will be one of the most important areas in artificial intelligence over the next ten years."
Didi isn't the only Chinese-based company that's eyeing a self-driving taxi service in the country. Tech giant Baidu is set to introduce a robotaxi service in Changsha by the end of 2019. Pony.ai is also developing autonomous technology in Guangzhou. So China's roads are about to get a large influx of autonomous vehicles in the near future.
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