Didi Chuxing just opened a self-driving car Research and Development center in Mountain View, California. The effort is part of a move to capture talent beyond the company’s current catchment pool in the mainland. The company is looking to make an early impact in Silicon Valley via collaboration with Udacity around autonomous cars.
The China-based ridesharing giant’s lab will focus on artificial intelligence (AI)-based intelligent driving tech. The lab will be led by computer scientist Fengmin Gong, co-founder of enterprise security company Palo Alto Networks. Didi Chuxing has also employed cybersecurity specialist Charlie Miller, who departed from Uber Inc.’s automated driving program last week. Miller rose to fame in 2015 when he hacked a Jeep Cherokee from a laptop 10 miles away.
Recode notes that it is a big move for the firm that as of early this year expanded into places like India, Southeast Asia, and Brazil through many investments in local ride-hailing companies. This is however, one of the first times the Chinese company has expanded its physical footprint outside of China.
The Verge notes that Didi Chuxing does not have any plans to roll out a rival service in the United States, but the launch of a facility in Silicon Valley is clearly meant to serve as a shot across Uber Inc.’s bow at a time when the eTaxi giant is reeling from multiple scandals. It was not a secret that the Chinese firm was interested in self-driving vehicles, but the creation of the research center makes it official.
Didi Chuxing is opening a self-driving tech lab in Mountain View, right in the backyard of many of its autonomous rivals. The company may be late to the party, but it is determined to catch up quickly. The research and development center will be focused on hiring top engineering talent to work on AI and autonomous vehicle tech.
Miller’s vehicle hacking tests made the risk of vulnerabilities to cybersecurity threats an important concern for firms working on autonomous cars. According to Forbes, the security researcher said that his job is to ensure that the assisted driving and self-driving systems created and employed by the China-based firm are resistant to external threats and attacks.
Didi Chuxing has collaborated, acquired, and invested in several firms outside of the Chinese nation, including strategic partnership with Grab in Southeast Asia, Ola in India, and Lyft in the United States. The company has also made a $100 million investment in Brazilian on-demand car service 99.
Didi Chuxing’s California lab will develop artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicle technology. While the company’s ridesharing empire might be centered in the mainland, it is still willing to head overseas to further its goals. The ride-hailing company backed by Apple is looking to pull talent in a hotbed of self-driving research.
By Anila Maring
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