Ye Jieping, the head of Didi Chuxing’s artificial intelligence research team, is stepping down after five years in the role as the Chinese ride-hailing platform sharpens focus on sustainable growth and profitability.

Why it matters: Ye is the latest in a series of departures from Didi this year. The country’s biggest ride-share app is streamlining its businesses to focus on revenue growth and efficiency, and scaling back on non-core projects.

  • Didi was hit hard during the Covid-19 outbreak, and it is seeking out new revenue streams such as logistics and grocery deliveries. Didi president Jean Liu in May said its ride volume had recovered to 60% to 70% of pre-Covid levels in an interview with CNBC.

Details: Didi chief technology officer Zhang Bo is taking over to lead AI Labs, a team of around 200 scientists and engineers, from departing director Ye, Chinese media reported Monday citing people familiar to the matter.

  • A fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and an associate professor at the University of Michigan, Ye joined Didi in 2015 when the company was in urgent need of top-tier AI talent in its head-to-head competition with Uber China.
  • The AI academic led the deployment of machine-learning algorithms to manage dispatching vehicles on Didi’s ride-hailing platform to improve demand forecasts.
  • Ye was named a deputy head of Didi Research Institute in April 2016, months before Didi merged with Uber China. Its oversight of AI Labs, which focuses on developing AI use cases for urban mobility services, came two years later.
  • In an announcement sent to TechNode on Tuesday, Didi thanked Ye for his service to the company, saying that his work helped DiDi “break many new trails in AI application to transportation.”
  • China’s ambition for wide AI applications has been hindered by security issues and a lack of high-quality data, among other challenges, according to a SCMP report, with scientists returning to academia from roles with local tech giants.

Contexts: Rumors linked Ye’s departure with the recent shift in positioning AI Labs as engineering-driven rather than research-led. Previously, the company’s new growth goals for the next three years triggered a series of management departures.

  • Tiger Qie, a former Google scientist and the CTO of Didi’s ride-hailing business, recently left the company after being assigned to lead research collaboration earlier this year, Chinese media LatePost last month reported citing people familiar with the matter.
  • Other executives who had left the company this year include Fu Junhua, senior vice president overseeing Didi’s public transport services; Tony Qiu, COO of its global business group; and Jia Zhaoyin, chief architect of the self-driving business.
  • As it prepares for a potential listing in Hong Kong, the Chinese ride-hailing giant has reportedly refreshed its core values in recent months, calling for greater responsiveness to change.

Jill Shen

Jill Shen is Shanghai-based technology reporter. She covers Chinese mobility, autonomous vehicles, and electric cars. Connect with her via e-mail: jill.shen@technode.com or Twitter: @yushan_shen