Uber has scaled back its autonomous vehicle program after one of its self-driving vehicles killed a pedestrian in Arizona in March.
But one of its major rivals for ride-sharing dollars around the world appears to be charging ahead.
Didi Chuxing, the China-based ride-hailing service that bought Uber’s business in China last year, obtained a permit to test autonomous vehicles on public roads in California. Didi is the latest to join the growing list of companies developing self-driving vehicles in the state but perhaps one of the most significant because of the company’s huge presence in China, the world’s largest ride-sharing market, and its potential global reach.
As of May 10, 53 companies held permits from the California Division of Motor Vehicles to test self-driving cars on public roads in the state, making it the most concentrated hub of autonomous vehicle research and testing activity in the world.
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Didi’s permit puts pressure on rival Uber, which halted all testing after one of its vehicles a pedestrian in a Phoenix suburb this past March. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash.
Uber has said it is cooperating with the NTSB in its investigation and has initiated a “top-to-bottom safety review” of its self-driving vehicles program. Uber has hired former NTSB Chair Christopher Hart to review and advise the company on its overall safety culture.
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The permit issued by the State of California comes on the heels of the opening of Didi Labs, the Chinese ride-sharing firm’s new research and development center in Mountain View, California.
Didi has invested in a number of companies outside of China. But the R&D center is the first of its kind outside of China. Didi also has yet to venture into the U.S. market with its actual ride-hailing service.
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But Didi has began offering its service in the Mexican city of Toluca, the company said, setting up a potentially costly battle with Uber in a key Latin American market on doorstep of its rival’s base in the U.S.