Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing said on Monday it has launched its autonomous driving unit as an independent company that will focus on research and look to strengthen collaboration with car makers.
Didi's chief technology officer, Zhang Bo, was named chief executive of the autonomous driving unit.
He will continue to be CTO of the ride-hailing compayny.
According to techcrunch.com, a website that reports on tech news, Didi's autonomous driving team was created in 2016 and has more than 200 employees in China and the US. It is now run separately from Didi's main operations.
Driverless technology is set to transform transportation, logistics and transit infrastructure globally with up to 15 per cent of cars sold by 2030 being fully autonomous, according to US consulting company McKinsey.
Last month, Toyota said it would inject $600 million (Dh2.2 billion) into Didi to help the company set up a car fleet management venture, bankrolling the loss-making entity's expansion.
The Japanese car manufacturer will work with Didi to provide services including rental and car maintenance. Toyota will use its connected-car technology and intelligent analysis to help bolster Didi's business, the partners said in a statement.
Meanwhile, BP said in July it would build a network of electric-vehicle charging hubs in China with Didi as the British company bets on the world's largest market for such cars to profit when transitioning from oil to cleaner fuels.
BP operates a fuels and convenience business across 18 countries with more than 18,700 sites, while Didi runs a mobile transportation platform, offering users app-based options including car-sharing.
Didi's platform has 550 million users and more than 600,000 EVs run on it in China, BP said.
The venture with BP will develop charging hubs for Didi’s drivers and the wider public and add convenience stores in the future, BP said.
The venture could build as many as 200 hubs with multiple charging points by the end of 2020, a BP spokesman said.
Didi also signed a strategic partnership with Symphony Investment – which counts Emaar Properties, Aramex and Americana Group as investors – in July.
The parties will set up a joint venture headquartered in Abu Dhabi, with an aim to promote a sharing economy and internet consumer services in the region. Mubadala Investment Company of Abu Dhabi is evaluating joining the consortium to help expand Didi in the region.