Didi Chuxing is launching a robotaxi fleet

Chinese ride-hailing group Didi Chuxing is launching a robotaxi fleet on the outskirts of Shanghai, the company has announced, as the country’s self-driving car start-ups move to build up street-ready fleets for traffic-clogged cities. Didi will deploy 30 self-driving cars in the Jiading district, pending regulatory approval… Lossmaking Didi spun out its autonomous vehicles unit in August, following similar moves by Uber and Waymo in the US. It was trying to attract new investment and split the costly development of the technologies away from its main business, analysts said… Unlike individual passenger vehicles, which need to handle a multitude of different driving conditions, robotaxi trials like Didi’s are limited to a particular geography and are only deployed during optimum traffic and weather conditions, reducing the risk of accidents. Some analysts still question whether these projects can become commercially viable in the near future… Didi’s two main domestic rivals have announced similar trials. In June, tech conglomerate Baidu said it hoped to launch robotaxis developed jointly with state-owned carmaker FAW later this year. Pony.ai, the most valuable self-driving vehicle start-up, has been testing its PonyPilot robotaxi fleet in Guangzhou in southern China since April. 

Christian Shepherd and Nian Liu