Chinese ride-hailing app Didi expands abroad with smart city projects

12/02/2018

Did Chuxing, the Chinese ride-hailing app that famously took over Uber’s operations in China in 2016, is planning to enter the smart city market this year.

Didi will face steep competition in the market, including China’s big three tech giants, Baidu, Apple, and Tencent. According to Frost & Sullivan, the smart city market has a projected value of US$1.6 trillion by 2020.

So what exactly is a smart city? The oft-spouted answer is an AI and big data powered urban planning approach. Smart cities use technology in three or more sectors – from traffic management to energy and sustainability – to make operations more efficient and functional for urban dwellers.

“Didi hopes to become the world’s biggest one-stop mobility service operator and lead in building new energy car-sharing and smart transport platforms,” said founder and chief executive of Didi Chuxing, Cheng Wei, at a press conference in Beijing last week. “Users will only need a smartphone in the future. Our smart transportation brain will take care of the rest, telling people what means of transportation to take and which routes to take.”

While the smart city market competition is steep, Did is off to a good start. As a ride-hailing service with over 400 million users across the country, it has arguably more data than competitors off of which to base its smart city infrastructure.

Didi has successfully run a year-long pilot test of its smart city platform in over 20 cities across China with over 1,200 traffic lights fully automated. Meanwhile, Baidu inked a partnership with Beijing to implement its smart city platform in the Hainan district, while Alibaba launched a similar partnership with Malaysia last month.

Didi’s top three shareholders are Apple, Alibaba, and Tencent, and the company has an estimated value of US$56 billion after the latest round of funding last month.

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