AutoX to launch 100 robotaxis in Shanghai by year-end, challenging Didi

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An AutoX robotaxi is tested inside the pilot area of Jiading district, Shanghai.
An AutoX robotaxi is tested in Jiading district, Shanghai. (Image credit: AutoX)

Autonomous driving startup AutoX announced on Saturday that it will launch a robotaxi pilot in Shanghai, the latest Chinese company to pass this particular milestone in the development of self-driving vehicles and one that comes on the heels of a similar announcement by heavyweight rival, Didi.

Why it’s important: Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi announced Friday that it would launch a robotaxi fleet of 30 driverless vehicles on the outskirts of Shanghai’s Jiading district, the same area that AutoX will be conducting its tests.

  • Didi said it will start trial operations with a mix of driverless and human-piloted vehicles to handle complex traffic and road conditions in the city. It was awarded road testing permits by the city government two days before the announcement.
  • The ride-hailing giant did not specify a timeline for the launch or disclose where in the district it would be testing cars, but did say that it expects the longest trip to exceed 10 kilometers (around six miles).

Detail: AutoX will deploy 100 autonomous vehicles in a pilot area of 150 square kilometers in Anting Town, which takes up nearly a third of Shanghai’s northwestern Jiading district.

  • The pilot area contains residential zones, shopping centers, and office parks. Jiadiing is the city’s automotive center, housing offices and manufacturing plants for major automotive players including China’s largest OEM, SAIC, and its joint venture with Volkswagen.
  • AutoX also plans to set up its regional headquarters in Jiading, and expects the driverless taxi service will be available to residents as early as the end of this year.
  • The California and Hong Kong-based AV startup has been testing its vehicles in more than 10 locations worldwide, including San Jose in Silicon Valley and the Nanshan district of Shenzhen, located in southern Guangdong Province.
  • AutoX’s applications for government permits allowing autonomous vehicle testing in Shanghai are on track, according to an announcement sent to TechNode on Monday.

Context: Chinese AV companies are racing to launch robotaxi services in an effort to lure investors in a shrinking investment market.

  • China’s AV frontrunner Pony.ai said earlier this year that it will expand its robotaxi fleet from dozens to 100 vehicles by the end of this year. The company has offered over 12,000 trips with its driverless vehicles in the Nansha district of Guangzhou in Guangdong Province since late 2018, and unveiled a partnership with Toyota on a driverless mobility service last month.
  • Baidu has also said it will roll out its robotaxi pilot service, Apollo Go, with 100 FAW-made vehicles in the central city of Changsha by year-end.
  • Guangzhou-based WeRide has partnered with the city’s largest cab operator, Baiyun Taxi Group, in an effort to provide intelligent mobility service in the city next year.
  • The undisputed leader in autonomous driving, US company Alphabet’s Waymo, began piloting self-piloted ride-hailing services in December.