Chinese Ride-hailing Giant Didi Launches New Driverless Robotaxi

Chinese Ride-hailing Giant Didi Unveils New Driverless Robotaxi

Didi’s new AV prototype, Neuron, is different from other robotaxis on the market due to its lack of a driver’s seat and steering wheel

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Hayley Zhao
11:54 AM HKT, Tue April 18, 2023 1 mins read

Imagine you request a taxi for airport pick-up, but instead of a conventional yellow cab, a sleek and futuristic-looking minivan arrives.

As the doors slide open, you notice there’s no driver inside. Instead, a robotic arm extends to help with your luggage.

After settling in the vehicle, the mechanical appendage hands you a bottle of water while you engage in a game or other form of entertainment on the sizable interactive screen. If you feel tired, you can recline and nap, and the robotic arm will rouse you just before you arrive at your destination.

This scenario could soon become a reality with the latest robotaxi — dubbed Neuron — from the Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi. During the company’s open house event on April 13, Didi COO Meng Xing demonstrated the features of the new concept car, which was designed to prioritize user experience.

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The Neuron concept car at the Didi open house event on April 13. Image via Weibo

Different from the current driverless taxis developed by other tech giants like Baidu and, Didi’s Neuron completely removed the front seats for the driver and passenger. Instead of the usual steering wheel and gear shifter, this area of the vehicle is filled with big interactive screens and provides extra legroom.

Neuron boasts a remarkable 86% increase in legroom compared to conventional taxis, allowing passengers to fully lie down. Neuron will also be the first robotaxi equipped with a robotic arm.

robotaxi, AV, driverless taxi

The robotic arm within the Neuron vehicle can load and unload luggage for passengers. Image via Weibo

Didi has experienced financial difficulties in recent years following regulatory scrutiny over data security and user safety issues, but the company has managed to continue its investment in autonomous vehicles (AV).

Since 2019, Didi’s AV team has expanded from 200 members to more than 1,000. The company piloted its robotaxi fleet in 2020 in Shanghai.

During the aforementioned open house event, Didi’s CTO announced that people can now use the Didi app to order regular driverless taxis in designated areas of Shanghai and Guangzhou while they wait for the concept AV Neuron to hit the road.

Cover image via Depositphotos

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