Ridesharing giant Didi Chuxing will offer robotaxi service in Shanghai

The pilot is modest, but should help make self-driving taxis a reality.

Self-driving taxis are quickly becoming a reality well beyond the US. Chinese ridesharing giant Didi Chuxing has unveiled plans for a pilot robotaxi service in Shanghai's Jiading District. It'll only include 30 cars with Level 4 autonomy (full self-driving in limited areas and conditions) and will start with a mix of driverless and helmed vehicles to deal with the "complex traffic and road conditions" of the city. Nonetheless, there's a real chance you'll be the only human in the vehicle if you're hailing a ride to Shanghai University.

There's no timeline for when to expect robotaxi service, although it may just be a matter of technical readiness when the city government granted testing permits on August 28th.

Didi was under pressure to roll this out. Baidu had already committed to debuting its own service in the city of Changsha, and is planning service of its own in a district of Guangzhou. While Didi isn't about to lose its ridesharing dominance in China in the near future, there's a long-term risk of falling behind if it's slow to embrace self-driving tech. This could ensure that it's truly ready for the day when robotaxis are ubiquitous on Chinese streets.