Chinese-based DiDi to offer Level 4 robo-taxi service in Shanghai

At the Shanghai’s World Artificial Intelligence Conference today, Chinese-based DiDi, has announced that its robo-taxis will transport passengers. Riders simply hail a self-driving vehicle like Uber (minus the driver)...

At the Shanghai’s World Artificial Intelligence Conference today, Chinese-based DiDi, has announced that its robo-taxis will transport passengers. Riders simply hail a self-driving vehicle like Uber (minus the driver) from the app.

DiDi will deploy 30 of its L4 autonomous vehicles to provide pilot robo-taxi services in Jiading District of Shanghai. Given the complex traffic and road conditions in the megacity, DiDi will begin the program with a mixed dispatching model, which will combine both autonomous vehicles and human-driving vehicles for the duration of the pilot robo-taxi project. 

While Level 4 of autonomy is what most automakers are dreaming of delivering in the coming years, it seems Didi thinks they’re ready now.

From the image and video supplied, it’s clear that minaturisation and aerodynamic efficiency have not been priorities for the company. With the urban congestion of a city like Shanghai (population 26.3Million), likely means the vehicles won’t be required to reach high speeds, therefore a large camera and sensor array bolted to the roof may be unsightly, but could prove to be effective.

Cheng Wei, Founder and CEO of Didi Chuxing, made the announcement at Shanghai’s World Artificial Intelligence Conference, where DiDi is showcasing robo-taxi hailing with its autonomous driving fleet on a closed track.   

“Technology only has worth when it brings value to people’s lives. We believe giving ordinary citizens access to large-scale, shared autonomous fleets is key to achieving our shared goal of safety, efficiency and sustainability for future cities.”

Cheng Wei, Founder and CEO of Didi Chuxing

Zhang Bo, CTO of DiDi and CEO of DiDi’s autonomous driving company, identified technology, transportation data, and platform management expertise as the key strengths of DiDi’s autonomous driving program.

“Working with our auto-industry partners, DiDi has the potential to become the first business to realise large-scale robo-taxi service in China,”

Zhang Bo, CTO of DiDi and CEO of DiDi’s autonomous driving company

Shanghai government awarded DiDi permits to test its AV fleet on August 28, 2019. Zhang announced that DiDi will deploy 30 of its L4 autonomous vehicles to provide pilot robo-taxi services in Jiading District of Shanghai.

Given the complex traffic and road conditions in the megacity, DiDi will begin the program with a mixed dispatching model, which will combine both autonomous vehicles and human-driving vehicles for the duration of the pilot robo-taxi project. 

Created in 2016, DiDi’s autonomous driving team now has over 200 specialists leading a comprehensive R&D operation covering a multitude of research areas, including HD mapping, perception, behaviour prediction, planning and control, infrastructure and simulation, labeling, problem diagnosis, vehicle modifications, connected car, and security, among others.

The team is developing and testing autonomous driving vehicles in both China and the United States. DiDi upgraded its autonomous driving unit to become an independent company in August 2019.  

If you think this isn’t relevant to Australia, think again. DiDi Australia launched its ride-hailing platform in 2018 with a commitment to building partnerships with drivers, passengers, policymakers and business partners to provide fully localised mobility services in Australia.

Headquartered in Melbourne, Victoria, DiDi Australia first launched its rideshare service, Express, in Geelong, Victoria in May 2018 and has since expanded to Melbourne (June 2018) Newcastle, New South Wales (March 2019) and Brisbane, Queensland (July 2019).

With Australian cities also suffering badly from congestion, don’t be surprised to see the autonomous fleet make its way to Australia, regulation permitting.

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Creator of techAU, Jason has spent the dozen+ years covering technology in Australia and around the world. Bringing a background in multimedia and passion for technology to the job, Cartwright delivers detailed product reviews, event coverage and industry news on a daily basis.
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