Chinese ride-hailing company DiDi Global is collaborating with Chinese carmakers to develop robotaxis.
DiDi is developing the robotaxis with multiple car manufacturers, including electric vehicle makers, and is aiming to begin putting them into service by 2025.
The company plans for the new vehicles to be domestically produced, with controllable supply chains and key components that are produced nationally.
A robotaxi concept was showcased by DiDi called Neuron which featured robotic arms to help passengers pick up luggage. The vehicle had no driver’s seat to maximise space for passengers.
DiDi began developing and testing autonomous driving vehicles in 2016 and has raised hundreds of millions of dollars in investment from firms such as IDG Capital and Guotai Junan.
In some parts of Shanghai and Guangzhou, DiDi allows users to hail self-driving cars through its main app. The firm’s self-driving fleet is currently supplied by Swedish carmaker Volvo.
The company also unveiled its autonomous trucking division named Kargobot, which reportedly has over 100 self-driving trucks currently in use. The main focus of Kargobot is logistics and freight services.
In addition, DiDi introduced two new pieces of hardware related to autonomous driving.
The first piece of hardware is the DiDi Beiyao Beta LiDAR, which is developed in partnership with Chinese tech firm Benewake. The second development is a computing platform called Orca, which is designed for self-driving cars.
DiDi has faced serious regulatory troubles in recent years, including a cybersecurity investigation by China’s cyberspace watchdog which forced it to take down its 25 mobile apps from app stores and suspend new user registration. The company was later fined $1.2 billion over data-security breaches and delisted from the New York Stock Exchange.
The announcement of DiDi’s collaboration with Chinese carmakers is a significant development for its autonomous driving plan after almost two years of regulatory difficulties. The lidar sensor and car computing device that was also announced at the event will further enhance Didi’s autonomous driving capabilities.
DiDi’s move to develop robotaxis aligns with its efforts to expand its business beyond ride-hailing and diversify its revenue streams. Robotaxis could also reduce the company’s reliance on human drivers, who are often involved in road accidents, and increase its profitability in the long run.
However, the success of DiDi’s robotaxi project will depend on the company’s ability to overcome regulatory hurdles and competition from other autonomous driving companies.
(Image Credit: DiDi Global)
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