Didi, the most popular ride hailing platform in China, is planning to launch a robotaxi service in the region. And no, we are not talking about something from the upcoming CyberPunk 2077, this is real, and about to become a very real part of our present, very soon.
The company has been dabbling in the ‘autonomous vehicle’ market, just like every other company involved in anything related to automobiles. Didi recently came up with V2X (Vehicle to Everything) hardware kits, which allow autonomous vehicles to interact with their surroundings and give rise to the phenomenon of ‘robotaxis’.
Now, people in Shanghai will be able to hire free on-demand rides using Didi’s autonomous vehicles. The technology is relatively new, and as one would expect, people aren’t completely comfortable being in the passenger seat when a robot is behind the wheel. Thus, for now, the cars have safety drivers, which can assume control, in case things go out of hand. Only customers in specific designated places will be able to partake in this experiment.
The V2X equipment, by default, will only be equipped in vehicles that Didi owns. However, cars that are registered on the platform but owned by individuals, can link up to the system, said Meng Xing, the chief operating officer of Didi’s autonomous driving unit.
While many companies are getting around to developing autonomous vehicles that would essentially need no human supervision, the technology is still in its infant stages and it’ll be years before we have a true ‘autopilot’ on our cars. Even Didi chief executive Cheng Wei said that it would take at least a decade of continued investment before AV technology passed critical technology, business and regulatory milestones.
Recently, Amazon has also decided to expand its prowess in the market, acquiring Zoox, an autonomous driving startup. The deal, that was valued by the Financial times at $1.2 billion, puts Zoox in a favourable position to deepen its research, with the backing of Amazon and its big pockets. The company will still retain its own identity, and will remain as a separate entity.