Once recognized as Uber’s fiercest rival in China, Didi Chuxing is now stepping foot in the U.S-based ride-hailing giant’s turf. It seems the Chinese cab aggregator is now getting serious about the prospects of AI and self-driving technologies. Thus, Didi has decided to set up a research and development center called ‘Didi Labs’ in Mountain View, California. It made this development public at Udacity’s Intersect conference on Wednesday.

After winning its extensively long battle with Uber, the company acquired its China operations last year. And it decided to keep Uber’s service in its home country operational independently. Didi has now grabbed control over most parts of the Chinese ride-hailing space but is now looking to expand its reach beyond the same. Thus, falling in line with recent developments, it plans to experiment with AI (artificial intelligence) and self-driving technologies.

No, this doesn’t mean the Chinese giant is now looking to take on Uber by launching its rival ride-hailing service in the U.S. But, there have been reports that Didi is working on an international ‘English’ version of its app, so it might launch sooner or later. Currently, it is looking to bank on the bad PR surrounding its rival (yes, still a global rival) Uber. And what better way than to set up an R&D lab in the hotspot of self-driving research. Didi now plans to scout for top engineering talent to begin its self-driving car development.

U.S-based Didi Labs will be led by Dr. Fengmin Gong, vice president of the Didi Research Institute. He was brought on board after his company AssureSec was acquired by China’s largest ride-hailing giant last year. Gong will be joined by renowned engineer cum hacker Charlie Miller, who has been poached from Uber.

Last week, Miller tweeted that he would be quitting Uber after about a 1.5-year long stint and has acknowledged his association with Didi Labs today. He is notably recognized for remotely hacking a Jeep’s software and making it come to a stand still on a highway. He also uncovered several other vulnerabilities in the vehicle and Apple products before that. Further, he has now been handed over the responsibility of leading Didi’s security and safety development teams. He’ll prevent their autonomous software from being prone to malicious attacks.

Didi’s research and development arm will aggressively focus on building artificially intelligent and autonomous systems from scratch. It would also work on build AI tools to further improve on their transportation tech and strategies. The company has also poached Jia Zhaoyin, a former senior software engineer at Google spin-off self-driving arm Waymo. He’s now been assigned the role of Principal engineer and will spearhead the aforementioned developments.

Also, following Google’s lead, the Chinese giant has also partnered with Udacity to launch a college-level $100,000 autonomous tech competition (and possibly an opportunity to work at Didi Labs). It will require the participants to built automated safety technology and demonstrate it using Udacity’s test cars. The learning platform recently applied for a permit to start its autonomous car tests on the roads of California.

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