World Artificial Intelligence Conference roundup: robotaxis

By William Smith
Didi Chuxing (DiDi) to allow customers in Shanghai to hail self-driving vehicles The recent 2019 World Artificial Intelligence Conference in Shanghai f...

Didi Chuxing (DiDi) to allow customers in Shanghai to hail self-driving vehicles

The recent 2019 World Artificial Intelligence Conference in Shanghai featured a number of revelations, including the imminent launch of Microsoft’s HoloLens 2.

With events such as the conversation between Jack Ma and Elon Musk grabbing headlines, a number of eye-catching stories dropped under the radar. One such announcement came from Chinese transportation company Didi Chuxing (DiDi), which is to allow customers in Shanghai to hail self-driving vehicles via an app.

The pilot project comes after the receipt of permission from the Shanghai government to test its autonomous fleet in the Jiading district of the city. 30 different autonomous vehicles will be deployed, all at level four on the SAE scale, which is ranked out of five. The vehicles will still at times be piloted by humans however, with the company citing the complexity of the Shanghai environment.

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The company has been active in developing vehicles in both China and the US, with areas of progress including “HD mapping, perception, behavior prediction, planning and control, infrastructure and simulation, labeling, problem diagnosis, vehicle modifications, connected car, and security.”

As reported by Autoblog, the service is scheduled to launch within a ‘couple’ of months, expand to Beijing and Shenzhen by 2020, and launch outside the country by 2021.

“Working with our auto-industry partners, DiDi has the potential to become the first business to realize large-scale robo-taxi service in China,” said Zhang Bo, CTO of DiDi and CEO of DiDi’s autonomous driving company.

The company has experienced something of a meteoric rise since its founding in 2012. According to Crunchbase, the company has raised $21.2bn, with investment from the likes of SoftBank, Toyota and Apple, who contributed $1bn in 2016. DiDi is also yet another example of regional rivals displacing the American originators of the ride-hailing business model, much as Grab has achieved in South East Asia.

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