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Volvo, DiDi sign pact to boost robotaxi operations

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Swedish carmaker Volvo today signed a strategic agreement with Chinese-based ride-hailing service DiDi Chuxing on autonomous vehicles for DiDi’s self-driving test fleet.

In a statement, the companies say the Swedish company has partnered DiDi Autonomous Driving, the self-driving technology arm of Didi Chuxing.

The news comes as DiDi is looking to set up shop in SA to take on established ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Bolt in the country.

Under the agreement, Volvo Cars will provide DiDi with XC90 cars equipped with necessary backup systems for functions such as steering and braking, and collaborate with DiDi Autonomous Driving to integrate the additional software and hardware required to make it fully ready for autonomous drive.

The XC90 cars will be the first to integrate DiDi Gemini, DiDi Autonomous Driving’s new self-driving hardware platform, and are intended to be deployed for ride-hailing in DiDi’s network in the future.

DiDi’s competitor Uber in December last year sold its driverless car subsidiary to start-up Aurora Technologies, abandoning a unit that Uber’s founder once hailed as critical to the future of the firm.

Aurora, founded in 2017, said the deal will help it “accelerate” its mission to make self-driving cars a reality.

Uber invested $400 million in the Amazon-backed company, giving it a 26% stake.

Volvo says its agreement with DiDi reinforces the Swedish company’s position as a provider of cars and the partner of choice for self-driving fleets, building on its reputation as a global leader in automotive safety.

According to the company, the built-in backup systems and safety features on the XC90s, combined with DiDi Autonomous Driving’s advanced self-driving system, will eventually allow the cars to operate without safety drivers in robotaxi services.

Building on today’s agreement, the companies look to build a long-term partnership as DiDi continues to expand its autonomous test fleets across China and the US, and scales up its commercial robotaxi operations.

As the world’s leading shared mobility technology platform, DiDi uses its deep expertise in network operation and large bank of real-world driving data to develop commercial autonomous transportation services by collaborating with the world’s premium car makers, they note.

In 2020, Volvo Cars provided DiDi with Volvo XC60s for use in Shanghai’s first pilot robotaxi programme.

People in certain areas of Shanghai could book trips by robotaxi in the DiDi app and be driven autonomously, while the cars were monitored by a safety driver and engineer.

“This strategic collaboration with DiDi Autonomous Driving is further validation of our ambition to be the partner of choice to the world’s leading ride-hailing companies,” says Håkan Samuelsson, Volvo Cars chief executive.

“Combining DiDi’s expanding robotaxi programme with our safe cars creates a great match to build trust among consumers for autonomous ride-hailing.”

“In expanding partnerships with global automotive industry leaders, we believe shared, electric and autonomous vehicle networks will be crucial for future urban transport systems to achieve the highest safety and sustainability standards,” says Bob Zhang, CEO of DiDi Autonomous Driving and CTO of Didi Chuxing.

“DiDi Gemini, our new self-driving hardware platform, incorporates critical hardware improvements from our test passenger service operations in Shanghai. With Volvo Cars’ leadership in safety, we look forward to achieving new milestones towards future autonomous transport services.”


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