Didi in the News

Didi Chuxing (a Udacity partner, ahem) has been in the news on a few fronts this week, and will probably show up a few more times with the upcoming Beijing Motor Show this week.

On the more traditional, human-driven, ride-hailing front, Didi is moving into Mexico, with a new office in Toluca. This seems ever-so-close to the lucrative US market, currently dominated by Uber and Lyft.

In the world of self-driving cars, Didi recently made two big announcements: they are developing “purpose-built” autonomous vehicles, and they are forming the Didi Auto Alliance (“D-Alliance”) to “ develop a full-capacity vehicle operator platform”.

Building a self-driving car from scratch seems like a pretty big deal to me. Tesla is famously struggling with the challenges of manufacturing a car, and even automotive manufacturers like GM/Cruise are basically re-purposing existing vehicles into self-driving cars.

By contrast, Didi believes:

“…current mainstream cars are heavily “overspecced” — packed with equipment most drivers do not need such as engines and other technologies that allow them to go as fast a 150 mph (250 kmph).

Performance levels for ride-hailing and car-sharing service vehicles could be dialled down significantly, meaning they would not have to be so aerodynamic. Cars designed to carry just one or two people at a time to work or the shops could therefore be “boxier”, with fewer seats and more space for luggage.”

I’m excited to see what Didi comes up with for its “purpose-built” self-driving cars. Big risk, big reward.

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