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China tech

Didi deploys self-driving taxi fleet in Shanghai, seeking edge on Baidu

China ride-hailer hopes big data will allow it to take lead in driverless race

Safety officers will sit in the driver’s seat during Didi Chuxing's test run of self-driving taxis in Shanghai.

BEIJING -- China's largest ride-hailing company Didi Chuxing has deployed dozens of self-driving vehicles on the streets of Shanghai in its biggest automated-taxi trial, the company said Saturday, seeking an edge on rival Baidu.

Didi launched the test operation of fully autonomous "level 4" taxis on a road in the Jiading District on the outskirts of Shanghai. A safety officer will sit in the driver’s seat during the trial, which offers free rides for now.

Using the driving data of more than 550 million users, Didi aims to capitalize in the autonomous driving field ahead of its rivals.

In addition to the trial in Shanghai, Didi is developing automated driving technology in Beijing, Suzhou City in Jiangsu Province, and in the U.S. state of California.

In 2018, Didi launched "D Alliance," a ride-sharing corporate partnership that includes Toyota Motor and Volkswagen. Didi hopes the alliance with accelerate the development of self-driving vehicles. 

Leading Chinese search engine company Baidu has set up the "Apollo" platform to develop autonomous driving technology. It has received support from the Chinese government and launched a test service of robotaxis in the central Chinese city of Changsha last year.

Didi hopes it can catch up Baidu by making full use of big data it amassed through its ride-sharing service.

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