Apple-Backed Chinese On-Demand Taxi Service Didi Opens AI Lab Near Apple’s HQ

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The China-based on-demand taxi service Didi recently opened an artificial intelligence lab in Mountain View, California, according to recent reports.

This is particularly interesting as that location isn’t that far from Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino … and Apple is a major investor in Didi (~$1 billion). Does this mean that Apple’s reported plans for self-driving vehicle tech development involve Didi?

Didi employees will reportedly be working on intelligent driving systems and AI-based transportation security at the new site, so that guess would probably figure.

The move is also interesting as Didi had previously not expanded much outside of China, so the move may represent a wider change of strategy.

Apple Insider provides more: “Staffing Didi’s lab are a number of standouts in the robotics, AI and engineering fields. Charlie Miller, who is best known for remotely hacking a moving Jeep, was poached from Uber’s self-driving team to lead Didi’s security and safety development teams, the report said. Didi also poached staff from Google’s Waymo self-driving car spinoff, including senior software engineer Jia Zhaoyin.

“Apple is working on its own self-driving vehicle under the name Project Titan, but the effort has been met with serious roadblocks over the past year. Rumors initially pointed to the development of a full-fledged branded car, but the initiative has since been greatly scaled down due to unforeseen setbacks. Following a round of layoffs, Apple’s Project Titan team reportedly has until the end of 2017 to prove it can move forward on its own, or will need the help of a third-party automaker.”

Notably, Apple has in recent times poached engineers from BlackBerry’s QNX, so the firm may well be backing away from car development completely and focusing on the rapidly expanding software side of the automotive business (self-driving tech, and otherwise). We’ll keep you posted as we collect more information.

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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