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Didi Chuxing to launch robotaxi fleet in Shanghai

By Ramla Soni

Chinese Uber-equivalent will start driverless taxi service ‘very soon’

Chinese ride-hailing service Didi Chuxing says it will bring a robotaxi service to the streets of Shanghai “very soon”.

Talking at CNBC’s East Tech West event in Guangzhou, China, Didi vice president and chief technology officer Tiger Qie said that users will be able to hail self-driving vehicles through the Didi app.

Qie insisted that self-driving taxis wouldn’t mean the end of human taxi drivers but would fill a gap that Didi has so far been unable to address. He said that Didi is currently only able to fulfil 65 per cent of user requests for rides.

“Autonomous vehicles and human-driven vehicles are going to co-exist,” Qie said.

Didi first announced its intention to deploy a fleet of driverless taxis in August 2019, saying it would deploy 30 self-driving cars in the Jiading district of Shanghai, pending regulatory approval.

The company believes robotaxis working set routes are a better way of commercialising self-driving vehicles and instilling confidence in the technology than individual passenger cars.

Didi has 550 million users, but has yet to turn a profit. The business posted losses of $1.6bn (£1.2bn, €1.4bn) in 2018. Qie said the Chinese ride-hailing market was very different from its US counterpart and that in China one ride is often “shared by six people”

Didi recently relaunched its carpooling spin-off Hitch with increased safety measures after a female passenger was raped and murdered using the service in 2018.

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