Uber rival Didi Chuxing sets up in Silicon Valley to pursue self-driving cars

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Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing took over operations in China from its rival Uber Technologies Inc. in 2016 after Uber reportedly lost large sums of money in China that threatened its worldwide operations. Now, the company has just moved into Silicon Valley.

In August, Uber boss Travis Kalanick announced he was selling his Chinese business for a 17.7 percent stake in Didi. In exchange. Didi, said be worth around $35 billion, invested $1 billion in Uber. Late last week Didi announced it would be rubbing shoulders with Uber again, setting up a research and development center in Mountain View, California.

Didi Labs will focus on autonomous vehicles, rather than launch its own ride-sharing service in the U.S. Reports state the Beijing-based company will be looking to poach large teams of engineers and researchers to develop its artificial intelligence for self-driving vehicles.

“As the world’s leading mobility platform, Didi has invested in five industry leaders around the world. 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 Wei, Didi’s founder and chief executive, said in a statement.

Didi had previously invested $100 million in Lyft Inc. while also joining in a $350 million funding round for Grab, a South East Asia-based ride-sharing business. With investments in India’s Ola Cabs as well, Didi said its coalition reaches around 50 percent of people globally.

Fengmin Gong, vice president of Didi’s research institute, will head Didi Labs. It’s reported the poaching has begun with former Uber engineer Charlie Miller already getting on board. Miller rose to notoriety after hacking a Jeep. Miller will be responsible for Didi’s security and safety development teams.

Jia Zhaoyin, formerly a software engineer at Google’s self-driving project Waymo, is also on board as a principal engineer at Didi. Dozens more reportedly have been hired and as the year progresses, Didi said, it will be expanding rapidly.

Image: Jonathan Kos-Read