The coronavirus is not yet over in China, where 400,000 people in Beijing were recently put under lockdown again. Nevertheless, ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing might have the strength to get back on their feet. Here is a summary of their most recent announcements:
- The company has introduced an on-demand autonomous taxi service in a Shanghai suburb. They emphasize the importance of moving beyond the novel but limited experience of AVs to something that is capable of navigating efficiently in highly complex real-world environments. Thus, this launch is following the installation of V2X (Vehicle-To-Everything) hardware in the area for vehicles to better interact with its surroundings and minimize safety blind spots.  This launch also marks a new partnership between Didi Chuxing and Volvo Car Group. According to internal Volvo sources, “Volvo Cars aims to be the supplier of choice to the world’s leading ride-hailing companies and the reputation of Volvo Cars as a global leader in automotive safety is a strong asset as it pursues this ambition”.
- Together with its earlier partner and delivery firm Meituan Dianping, Didi Chuxing is now starting to see a rebound in business after the initial shocks of Covid-19. In May, Meituan Diangping said that food orders were back to 90% of pre-pandemic levels. They expect to see continued effects of the pandemic, but also adds that it could still “play a positive role in the industry’s long-term deployment” by accelerating consumer behaviour in favour of online food ordering. 
- In May, Didi Chuxing accepted an investment of $500 million from an investment group led by Japanese conglomerate SoftBank for the continued development of autonomous vehicles. 
It’s inspiring to see the enormous push and investments poured into this business for continued development and commercialization. However, I would like to see more discussions and ambitions for ways this connects to a “green” transportation system. What implementation strategies will efficiently decrease the need for privately owned vehicles? Should these vehicles be electric? And in that case, how do we ensure functionality by strategically locating charging possibilities? And how do we combine increased deployment of electric (autonomous) ride-hailing vehicles with an accelerated transition to renewable energy sources? I know these are huge questions that no single ride-hailing company can have sole responsibility to answer, but we are on the path towards a transportation system-of-systems that connects actors who have no historical collaboration, which in my opinion makes it even more important to start preparing.
Written by Hampus Alfredsson, RISE.
1. 2020-06-29. China’s DiDi launches autonomous taxi service in Shanghai.