Robo-Taxis Are The Future Of Transportation — And China’s DiDi Is Racing To Get There First

Beijing-based Didi Chuxing (literally “Beep-beep Travel”), or DiDi for short, is China’s leading Uber clone. It is everything Uber is, and then some. With investors like Alibaba (owner of Alipay) and Tencent (owner of WeChat), DiDi is the overwhelmingly dominant ride-hailing app in China. In 2017 DiDi sold an incredible 7.43 billion rides, nearly twice as many as Uber. Even deep-pocketed Uber gave up the chase and traded its China business for a 17.7% stake in DiDi in 2016.
Of course, DiDi is also developing autonomous driverless cars. Its technology partner is an electric car startup called CHJ Auto. Together they are working to create an all-electric robotaxi that can shuttle passengers around China’s crowded megacities with no drivers at all. But that doesn’t mean an existential crisis for DiDi: unlike Uber, DiDi doesn’t have to pretend to be a mere sharing app. China has regularized the status of ride-hailing services so they are regulated more or less like conventional taxis.