China's Uber rival Didi Chuxing opens R&D lab in Silicon Valley

Didi Chuxing has opened Didi Labs in California as part of its strategic vision to build an international research network.
Written by Tas Bindi, Contributor

China's Uber rival Didi Chuxing announced that it has officially opened its first US-based research and development lab in Mountain View, California this week.

Didi Labs will seek out engineering talent and focus on artificial intelligence (AI)-based security and intelligent driving technologies, according to a statement made by the company.

Cheng Wei, founder, chairman, and CEO of Didi Chuxing, said the company's vision is to build an international research network.

In September last year, Didi Chuxing, which provides ride booking services to more than 400 million users across more than 400 cities in China, hired two security experts based in the US -- Dr Fengmin Gong and Zheng Bu -- to lead Didi Labs.

It is expected that Didi Labs will work closely with the company's China-based research and development facility that opened in late 2015, and other facilities in the future as they open.

The company said "dozens" of data scientists and researchers have joined the team, including automobile security specialist Charlie Miller who is well-known for hacking a journalist's vehicle remotely in a pre-arranged stunt to demonstrate vulnerabilities within the automotive industry. The company expects the team to grow rapidly throughout 2017.

Current projects span cloud-based security, deep learning, human-machine interaction, computer vision and imaging, as well as intelligent driving technologies, Didi Chuxing said.

"In the next decade, Didi will play a leading role in innovation at three layers: Optimisation of transportation infrastructure, introduction of new energy vehicles and intelligent driving systems, and a shift in human-automotive relationship from ownership to shared access," said Bob Zhang, CTO at Didi Chuxing.

"Building on rich data and fast-evolving AI analytics, we will be working with cities and towns to build intelligent transportation ecosystems for the future," Cheng added.

In August 2016, Didi Chuxing announced that it would be merging with Uber China under a $35 billion deal. At the time, it was said that Uber China investors will have a 20 percent stake in the newly merged company.

News of the merger followed a revelation that Uber was spending up to $1 billion each year in China to compete with its rivals there.

It also followed Apple's $1 billion investment in Didi in May 2016, which Apple CEO Tim Cook said would help the company understand the Chinese market.

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