Chinese ride-hailing company tests robotaxi service in Shanghai
Updated 13:20, 29-Jun-2020

Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing, backed by SoftBank Group, launched a test robotaxi service in a Shanghai suburb on Saturday after installing V2X (Vehicle to Everything) hardware throughout the area.

Under the test, users will be able to get a free trial ride using Didi's autonomous vehicles after making the reservation via their app, the company said.

At the current stage, the service, equipped with safety drivers, is only available within a designated area in Shanghai, which will travel through exhibition centers, office areas, subway stations and hotels.

The robotaxis are to be deployed in places where ride-hailing drivers are less available, according to Meng Xing, the chief operating officer of Didi's autonomous driving unit.

In-vehicle footage from CGTN live

In-vehicle footage from CGTN live

How to ensure users' safety?

V2X enables autonomous vehicles (AVs) to communicate with their surroundings and Didi has installed equipment at major junctions within the test area to minimize safety blind spots and coordinate communication among its fleet, according to the company.

Meanwhile, Didi has set up a safety control center for autonomous driving, which can monitor vehicles and road conditions in real time, and give timely assistance and instructions to vehicles in need.

The equipment will mainly be used by Didi's own cars, although cars operated by other autonomous driving companies could also link up to the system, said Meng.

Watch CGTN Live: Experience robotaxi service in Shanghai

CCTV reporter experiences the service in Shanghai.

CCTV reporter experiences the service in Shanghai.

Didi's self-driving ambition

A broader rollout of V2X equipment to improve the use autonomous vehicles would require coordination with government, Meng told Reuters in an interview.

Didi chief executive Cheng Wei said the company expected greater use of artificial intelligence to revolutionize safety and efficiency of the urban transit system.

However, it would take at least a decade of continued investment before AV technology passed critical technology, business and regulatory milestones, he said in a statement.

Didi last month raised more than 500 million U.S. dollars for its autonomous driving unit, which has more than 400 staff globally.

It is using vehicles with the Volvo, Lincoln and BYD marques in the current test.

Three-year-old WeRide, which is backed by Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi, is testing cars in Guangzhou and has installed some V2X equipment in its test area.

Baidu Inc started offering a robotaxi service in the central China city of Changsha earlier this year.

(With input from Reuters)