Didi Chuxing has been testing two self-driving vehicles on public roads for several months, putting the ride-hailing group further ahead in the race to develop autonomous taxis than had been believed.
The company used two modified Qoros 5 sports utility vehicles for the tests, which took place on a purpose-built testing track near Shanghai and on public roads, the Chinese carmaker told the Financial Times. Didi Chuxing declined to comment.
观致汽车(Qoros)告诉英国《金融时报》，滴滴出行使用两辆改装的观致5(Qoros 5) SUV，在上海附近的一条专用试车道和公共道路上进行测试。滴滴出行拒绝置评。
On Friday the FT revealed that Didi had tested its own autonomous cars.
Testing in real-world conditions is essential for driverless cars to learn from unexpected situations that would be difficult to simulate, such as how human drivers react to a self-driving vehicle. Studies have shown that aggressive drivers block driverless cars at junctions, so the vehicles need to be made more assertive.
Developing autonomous vehicles is essential for ride-booking groups to reduce costs by eliminating drivers, as well as to increase fleet utilisation.
Uber has said it expects to have fully autonomous cars in operation as early as next year, while Grab, a Southeast Asian rival, plans to launch its own driverless service by 2022.
Didi has not publicly given a timeline for the launch of its autonomous service, though earlier this month it struck partnerships with 12 brands to purchase vehicles in the future.
Qoros, a carmaker based in Shanghai, has been working with the ride-booking group for several months, the company said. The group provided the vehicles for the tests and integrated Didi’s software and sensors into the cars.
Didi employees spent several months at the company’s plant in Changshu, about 50 miles from Shanghai. Qoros also ran the trials, which took place first on the company’s own test track outside its plant and then on public roads.
Qoros was founded in 2007 as a joint venture between Chinese carmaker Chery and Israeli group Kenon Holdings. Last month, Chinese conglomerate Baoneng took a 51 per cent stake in Qoros for $1bn, with a pledge to buy 100,000 vehicles a year from the company for at least the next three years.
It also has the option to buy Kenon’s remaining shares for $500m.