China's Didi aims for 1 million robotaxis on its platform by 2030

FILE PHOTO: The company logo of the Didi ride-hailing app on a car door at the IEEV New Energy Vehicles Exhibition in Beijing, China, October 18, 2018. REUTERS/Thomas Peter/File Photo

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing aims to operate more than 1 million self-driving cars through its platform by 2030, an executive said on Tuesday.

Didi is developing autonomous driving technologies and plans to deploy so-called robotaxis in areas where there is a shortage of ride-hailing car supply, said Meng Xing, the chief operating officer of the company’s autonomous driving unit, at an online conference hosted by South China Morning Post.

The company last month completed a more than $500 million fundraising round for the autonomous driving unit, led by SoftBank Group’s Vision Fund 2.

Last year Didi said it would start using autonomous vehicles to pick up passengers in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen this year before expanding the scheme outside China in 2021.

Automakers and tech companies in China are investing billions in the autonomous driving industry to compete with the likes of Tesla Inc, Alphabet Inc Waymo and Uber Technologies.

While some industry insiders said it will take time for the public to trust autonomous vehicles fully, Meng said that Didi, which is developing autonomous cars with China’s BAIC Group [BEJINS.UL], expects autonomous vehicles to be in mass production by 2025.

WeRide, a start-up based in Guangzhou city, is operating a fleet of more than 40 robotaxis plus a further 60 test cars. The three-year-old company is backed by Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi.

Baidu Inc started offering a robotaxi service in China’s southern city of Changsha this year.

Reporting by Yilei Sun and Brenda Goh; Editing by David Goodman