• Alexander Liu-Middleton

Robot cars and more from China!

In 2018 taxi app service Didi revealed a cooperation of Chinese and foreign companies including Renault, Toyota and Volkswagen which is dedicated to moving forward.

International automakers are positioning themselves for a brave new world of on-demand transportation that will involve a car of the future - hyper-connected, autonomous, and shared - with China becoming the guinea pig for the concept.

What with ride-hailing amenities flourishing and car-sharing not far behind, the need for automobiles tailored to these and other developing mobility solutions is one of the newest focuses among international automakers assembled for the Shanghai Auto Show.

All agree that there is no superior demonstrating ground than China: its massive cities are desperate for solutions to congestion and its populace is renowned for its willingness to embrace new high-tech services.

In order to take advantage of this, companies are contending not only to sell conventional and electric automobiles in the world's principal auto market, but also to improve new technologies.

The enthusiasm of Chinese commuters to hail rides with a smartphone click has released an enormous market: on-demand transport touched US$28 billion in income in China last year, or about half of the world-wide volume, and is predicted to double by 2022.

In 2018, Didi revealed an association of Chinese and foreign companies comprising of Renault, Toyota and Volkswagen, dedicated to exploring ways forward. In February, Chinese technology goliaths Alibaba and Tencent have joined with numerous manufacturers to cultivate a future platform for on-demand transport.

Although a relative new arrival to China's automotive market, Renault is surging ahead: its joint venture with Chinese company Brilliance Auto saw the delivery 600 personal minivans to Didi in February.

Didi drivers normally supply their own cars, but Chinese authorities are encouraging service firms to build their own fleets, partly to spur on the business and push forward the ultramodern transport concept.

Some companies are even dipping their toes into ride-hailing, with BMW offering a high-end facility in the Chinese city of Chengdu, and Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz are doing so in Shanghai.


French manufacturer of ultrasonic sensors, cameras, and navigational technology Valeo,, said that it has received orders totalling one billion euros last year connected to the development of "robot-taxis". Francois Marion, president of Valeo China, said that the world-wide arrival of driverless cars is just around the corner.

"They will hit the road in carefully charted urban environments, with dedicated lanes on the streets, connected infrastructures guiding them, and programmed itineraries and the companies operating them will always be able to intervene if anything happens to one of the vehicles." he said of the revolutionary vision.

Valeo also is working with Meituan, China's leader in meal deliveries, to develop a robotic vehicle.

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