Didi opens self-driving car lab near Apple in California

Posted:
in General Discussion edited March 2017
Apple-backed Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi on Wednesday opened an artificial intelligence lab in Mountain View, Calif., where the firm will develop intelligent driving systems and AI-based transportation security.


Apple CEO Tim Cook meets with Didi president Jean Liu in 2016. | Source: Tim Cook via Twitter


Didi's U.S. self-driving car facility represents a major expansion effort for the company, which has so far limited most of its physical operations within China, reports Recode.

The new lab's location is also interesting. Mountain View sits between Palo Alto and Sunnyvale, and is just a stone's throw away from Apple's headquarters in Cupertino.

Though a direct connection between the self-driving lab and Apple has not been announced, Apple invested $1 billion in Didi last year. The investment, Didi's single largest at the time, marked a major shift for Apple, which traditionally opens its vast coffers only for low-profile acquisitions.

"We are making the investment for a number of strategic reasons, including a chance to learn more about certain segments of the China market," Apple CEO Tim Cook said at the time. "Of course, we believe it will deliver a strong return for our invested capital over time as well."

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.

Most recently, reports in October suggest Apple is turning its focus toward the software side of self-driving car technology, hiring away engineers from BlackBerry's QNX to develop augmented reality car navigation and other in-car technology.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 13
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 30,688member
    And here's a picture of Tim and Deedee. /jk
  • Reply 2 of 13
    Smart of Apple to use Didi as a databank. 
  • Reply 3 of 13
    calicali Posts: 3,495member
    I can actually see what's happening here. 

    I said it when they first invested in Didi, Apple will create an enjoyable ride share experience. Uber feels so outdated in reality(the app is futuristic though). 

    Instead of some random person picking you up in his car imagine using ApplePay to call up your ride. A bad a** Apple Car pulls up and you ride in style and entertainment. 

    My friend called an Uber the other day and some random truck picked her up. It felt so old, even older than yellow cab cars. I can't wait to see what Apple does. 
    edited March 2017
  • Reply 4 of 13
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 2,969moderator
    I still say Apple will leave self-driving tech to the car makers.  Limits Apple's liability in the area I think they will actually pursue, described in a previous post of mine...

    The car of the future is already here.  It's called a Smartphone.  Think about it.  If you were to clear the slate, look at the modern world and ask yourself, how would I design a transportation system given existing and soon-to-come technologies, like autonomous driving, real-time availability scheduling. Route optimization, etc, no way you'd conclude there should be a car, or two, in every garage.  You'd create a technology/software infrastructure to allow individuals to call up the transportation they need (car, truck, van, etc) on-demand.  And it would show up wherever they are, or wherever they are going to be, when it's needed.  You'd be able to schedule transportation in advance, like the airport shuttles of yesteryear that you'd schedule a week in advance. Uber pretty much killed that business, I expect.  

    Or schedule recurring transportation, such as to take the kids to soccer practice and back.  In this case the transportation technology system might suggest a shared van service, that knows the schedules for local after school sports practice and offers up and constructs pick-up and drop-off routes based upon participation; a regular route to gather up the kids and deliver them.  Accommodation for security will be considered when children are being transported without accompanying parents, such as real-time tracking and a constant open line of communication, both audio and video streaming from the vehicle to parent's smartphones. 

    The specific vehicle that arrives can be determined by number of passengers, whether you'll be transporting something large or just yourself, etc.  The notion of owning, maintaining, accommodating parking requirements of, insuring, etc, a personal vehicle, for many people, has already begun to feel like 'the old paridigm.'  

    To create this infrastructure, you need route optimization software, that incorporates the real-time whereabouts of all vehicles in a local fleet. You need scheduling software.  You need to deal with remaining charge/range of each vehicle out in service to know when a vehicle can accommodate an additional requested or scheduled route without running out of juice.  You need to accommodate stand-by, where the vehicle drops someone off at a location and is requested to stand-by for an indeterminate time while the person goes into a store or bank to run an errand.  In short, you need a very sophisticated set of interacting technologies to accommodate smooth operation of a transportation network that provides near immediate responsiveness to a population's constantly fluctuating needs.

    If I were Tim Cook, this is exactly the way I'd envision the future, and this is what I'd set out to create.  It's not so much about constructing vehicles yourself, but about getting sign-in from all vehicle manufacturers such that their vehicles can work within the envisioned transportation network.  And that means that people who do own vehicles could lend them into their local autonomous transportation fleet in order to earn money (this has already been suggested by Musk and makes sense for a maker of vehicles to accommodate, as it helps him sell more Teslas direct to consumers).  It means that new rental fleets will simply be staged in large metro areas, with one or more depots that the vehicles come back to for recharging, maintenance, cleaning, etc.  And that means that there's a path forward for the rental companies, because they already have staging areas for their existing fleets.  The big picture can be accommodated during a transition phase from the world we have today to a world where almost all transportation is shared and autonomous.  

    Extend this to trucking, inter-city bussing, etc, and the whole thing becomes a future that Apple could play a major role in developing.  Without ever producing, on their own, a single vehicle.

    Also key to this is that everything Apple needs to do to revolutionize transportation does not require Apple to do any work on autonomous driving, nor does Apple need to build a single vehicle model.  Nope, Apple will want to own the end user interaction used to summon and schedule transportation, and it'll want to own the route optimization algorithms and server side scheduling and dispatch.  And take a cut of every ride.  

    There will need to be some tech in each car to pick up the user interaction that began on a rider's smartphone or Watch, once the car arrives to pick up the rider.  The car will need a voice interface to interact with the rider.  The car will need to constantly ping its whereabouts to the dispatch and scheduling servers, along with its charge level, so that the dispatch system can determine its next pick up and determine when it needs to exit the active fleet and return to a nearby depot for recharging or maintenance.  The car will need to contain sensors, like internal cameras, to monitor for left-behind packages, spilled coffee, etc, and report appropriately to riders or to dispatch.  The car will need streaming audio/video capabilities to stream to parents when children are riding without adult accompaniment.  All of this can be designed as a set of interfaces that automakers can implement in order to be compatible with Apple's dispatch and routing servers, and the vehicles might also be required to utilize Apple's mapping infrastructure.  

    Once verified as able to serve a ride request, the car is handed details on the location of the rider, and the rider's destination, and it can then utilize its own autonomous driving capabilities to serve the request.  And all of this can integrate both driverless and human driven vehicles into the same service.  So as vehicles are developed that are licensed for autonomous operation, these can be added to an existing Uber-like fleet of human driven vehicles, both serving together to form a centrally requested and directed/dispatched swarm serving a metrolitan area.  Eventually, the human driven vehicles would all be replaced with autonomous vehicles, and the future will have arrived.
    edited March 2017 fotoformat
  • Reply 5 of 13
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 30,688member
    Smart of Apple to use Didi as a databank. 
    Didi for data?
  • Reply 6 of 13
    irelandireland Posts: 17,547member
    Good for Apple to partner with Didi and recognise early on Uber as a toxic company culture.
  • Reply 7 of 13
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,556member
    I still say Apple will leave self-driving tech to the car makers.  Limits Apple's liability in the area I think they will actually pursue, described in a previous post of mine...

    The car of the future is already here.  It's called a Smartphone.  Think about it.  If you were to clear the slate, look at the modern world and ask yourself, how would I design a transportation system given existing and soon-to-come technologies, like autonomous driving, real-time availability scheduling. Route optimization, etc, no way you'd conclude there should be a car, or two, in every garage.  You'd create a technology/software infrastructure to allow individuals to call up the transportation they need (car, truck, van, etc) on-demand.  And it would show up wherever they are, or wherever they are going to be, when it's needed.  You'd be able to schedule transportation in advance, like the airport shuttles of yesteryear that you'd schedule a week in advance. Uber pretty much killed that business, I expect.  

    Or schedule recurring transportation, such as to take the kids to soccer practice and back.  In this case the transportation technology system might suggest a shared van service, that knows the schedules for local after school sports practice and offers up and constructs pick-up and drop-off routes based upon participation; a regular route to gather up the kids and deliver them.  Accommodation for security will be considered when children are being transported without accompanying parents, such as real-time tracking and a constant open line of communication, both audio and video streaming from the vehicle to parent's smartphones. 

    The specific vehicle that arrives can be determined by number of passengers, whether you'll be transporting something large or just yourself, etc.  The notion of owning, maintaining, accommodating parking requirements of, insuring, etc, a personal vehicle, for many people, has already begun to feel like 'the old paridigm.'  

    To create this infrastructure, you need route optimization software, that incorporates the real-time whereabouts of all vehicles in a local fleet. You need scheduling software.  You need to deal with remaining charge/range of each vehicle out in service to know when a vehicle can accommodate an additional requested or scheduled route without running out of juice.  You need to accommodate stand-by, where the vehicle drops someone off at a location and is requested to stand-by for an indeterminate time while the person goes into a store or bank to run an errand.  In short, you need a very sophisticated set of interacting technologies to accommodate smooth operation of a transportation network that provides near immediate responsiveness to a population's constantly fluctuating needs.

    If I were Tim Cook, this is exactly the way I'd envision the future, and this is what I'd set out to create.  It's not so much about constructing vehicles yourself, but about getting sign-in from all vehicle manufacturers such that their vehicles can work within the envisioned transportation network.  And that means that people who do own vehicles could lend them into their local autonomous transportation fleet in order to earn money (this has already been suggested by Musk and makes sense for a maker of vehicles to accommodate, as it helps him sell more Teslas direct to consumers).  It means that new rental fleets will simply be staged in large metro areas, with one or more depots that the vehicles come back to for recharging, maintenance, cleaning, etc.  And that means that there's a path forward for the rental companies, because they already have staging areas for their existing fleets.  The big picture can be accommodated during a transition phase from the world we have today to a world where almost all transportation is shared and autonomous.  

    Extend this to trucking, inter-city bussing, etc, and the whole thing becomes a future that Apple could play a major role in developing.  Without ever producing, on their own, a single vehicle.

    Also key to this is that everything Apple needs to do to revolutionize transportation does not require Apple to do any work on autonomous driving, nor does Apple need to build a single vehicle model.  Nope, Apple will want to own the end user interaction used to summon and schedule transportation, and it'll want to own the route optimization algorithms and server side scheduling and dispatch.  And take a cut of every ride.  

    There will need to be some tech in each car to pick up the user interaction that began on a rider's smartphone or Watch, once the car arrives to pick up the rider.  The car will need a voice interface to interact with the rider.  The car will need to constantly ping its whereabouts to the dispatch and scheduling servers, along with its charge level, so that the dispatch system can determine its next pick up and determine when it needs to exit the active fleet and return to a nearby depot for recharging or maintenance.  The car will need to contain sensors, like internal cameras, to monitor for left-behind packages, spilled coffee, etc, and report appropriately to riders or to dispatch.  The car will need streaming audio/video capabilities to stream to parents when children are riding without adult accompaniment.  All of this can be designed as a set of interfaces that automakers can implement in order to be compatible with Apple's dispatch and routing servers, and the vehicles might also be required to utilize Apple's mapping infrastructure.  

    Once verified as able to serve a ride request, the car is handed details on the location of the rider, and the rider's destination, and it can then utilize its own autonomous driving capabilities to serve the request.  And all of this can integrate both driverless and human driven vehicles into the same service.  So as vehicles are developed that are licensed for autonomous operation, these can be added to an existing Uber-like fleet of human driven vehicles, both serving together to form a centrally requested and directed/dispatched swarm serving a metrolitan area.  Eventually, the human driven vehicles would all be replaced with autonomous vehicles, and the future will have arrived.
    Futurist thinking. 
  • Reply 8 of 13
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,590member
    The notion of owning, maintaining, accommodating parking requirements of, insuring, etc, a personal vehicle, for many people, has already begun to feel like 'the old paridigm.'  
    Considering the average car spends north of 90% of its time parked it makes no sense to own a car. Average car ownership costs more than $700.- per month  (http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2012/12/what-that-car-really-costs-to-own/index.htm). If you could subscribe to a service which pretty much guaranteed car availability, and would free you of any unexpected costs or responsibilities, and you wouldn't even need to learn to drive, then yeah, good by 'old paradigm'. For most of us here who drive our own cars and somehow feel that car ownership is inextricably linked to or personal freedom - even if that freedom consists of traffic jams and tightly regulated behaviour, the idea of a car subscription may seem 'wrong', somehow. But for kids and future generations I am pretty sure personal car ownership will feel a bit like owning your own cow for milk. 
    StrangeDayspatchythepirate
  • Reply 9 of 13
    jdgazjdgaz Posts: 341member
    2 years ago I wrote in a time capsule for a childs first birthday, to be opened upon their 21st that people in 2015 owned their own cars. Somehow I think that paradigm will go away, at least in urban areas, and my 3 car garage is going to need to find other uses.
  • Reply 10 of 13
    retrogustoretrogusto Posts: 702member
     Apple invested $1 billion in Didi last year. The investment, Didi's single largest at the time, marked a major shift for Apple, which traditionally opens its vast coffers only for low-profile acquisitions. 
    They may not do this sort of thing often, but they did do something similar with Akamai years ago. 
  • Reply 11 of 13
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 30,688member
    paxman said:
    The notion of owning, maintaining, accommodating parking requirements of, insuring, etc, a personal vehicle, for many people, has already begun to feel like 'the old paridigm.'  
    Considering the average car spends north of 90% of its time parked it makes no sense to own a car. Average car ownership costs more than $700.- per month  (http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2012/12/what-that-car-really-costs-to-own/index.htm). If you could subscribe to a service which pretty much guaranteed car availability, and would free you of any unexpected costs or responsibilities, and you wouldn't even need to learn to drive, then yeah, good by 'old paradigm'. For most of us here who drive our own cars and somehow feel that car ownership is inextricably linked to or personal freedom - even if that freedom consists of traffic jams and tightly regulated behaviour, the idea of a car subscription may seem 'wrong', somehow. But for kids and future generations I am pretty sure personal car ownership will feel a bit like owning your own cow for milk. 
    There's no service that can guarantee car availability at all times. During peak demand times one is at the mercy of available supply, or one shells out more to get an alternative. I like the idea of being able to avoid paying off a lease or loan, ending car insurance, avoiding parking fees, tickets, etc., but it's not there yet and it may never be there.
    edited March 2017
  • Reply 12 of 13
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,590member
    paxman said:
    The notion of owning, maintaining, accommodating parking requirements of, insuring, etc, a personal vehicle, for many people, has already begun to feel like 'the old paridigm.'  
    Considering the average car spends north of 90% of its time parked it makes no sense to own a car. Average car ownership costs more than $700.- per month  (http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2012/12/what-that-car-really-costs-to-own/index.htm). If you could subscribe to a service which pretty much guaranteed car availability, and would free you of any unexpected costs or responsibilities, and you wouldn't even need to learn to drive, then yeah, good by 'old paradigm'. For most of us here who drive our own cars and somehow feel that car ownership is inextricably linked to or personal freedom - even if that freedom consists of traffic jams and tightly regulated behaviour, the idea of a car subscription may seem 'wrong', somehow. But for kids and future generations I am pretty sure personal car ownership will feel a bit like owning your own cow for milk. 
    There's no service that can guarantee car availability at all times. During peak demand times one is at the mercy of available supply, or one shells out more to get an alternative. I like the idea of being able to avoid paying off a lease or loan, ending car insurance, avoiding parking fees, tickets, etc., but it's not there yet and it may never be there.
    Agreed. But the idea of individually owned cars is clearly not the way forward in the long run. In terms of car availability there may be a scenario whereby during busy moments you can optionally share a ride for a reduced fee. If you always take a ride to work you might opt for a sharing option with one, two , or three others at an equally reduced rate. You wouldn't know who the others were and clearly there would be a certain delay because of additional pick-ups. But in a future world I can't envisage the delay would be minimal because most people would use such services and so car-pooling would be much more efficient. Today, if you own a car the chance of it being available for you when you need it is very high, but there is no guarantee you won't be stuck in horrendous traffic at peak times. A future with autonomous cars and peak traffic sharing could alleviate that problem, at least. Not to mention the parking!
    edited March 2017
  • Reply 13 of 13
    foggyhillfoggyhill Posts: 4,767member
    paxman said:
    paxman said:
    The notion of owning, maintaining, accommodating parking requirements of, insuring, etc, a personal vehicle, for many people, has already begun to feel like 'the old paridigm.'  
    Considering the average car spends north of 90% of its time parked it makes no sense to own a car. Average car ownership costs more than $700.- per month  (http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2012/12/what-that-car-really-costs-to-own/index.htm). If you could subscribe to a service which pretty much guaranteed car availability, and would free you of any unexpected costs or responsibilities, and you wouldn't even need to learn to drive, then yeah, good by 'old paradigm'. For most of us here who drive our own cars and somehow feel that car ownership is inextricably linked to or personal freedom - even if that freedom consists of traffic jams and tightly regulated behaviour, the idea of a car subscription may seem 'wrong', somehow. But for kids and future generations I am pretty sure personal car ownership will feel a bit like owning your own cow for milk. 
    There's no service that can guarantee car availability at all times. During peak demand times one is at the mercy of available supply, or one shells out more to get an alternative. I like the idea of being able to avoid paying off a lease or loan, ending car insurance, avoiding parking fees, tickets, etc., but it's not there yet and it may never be there.
    Agreed. But the idea of individually owned cars is clearly not the way forward in the long run. In terms of car availability there may be a scenario whereby during busy moments you can optionally share a ride for a reduced fee. If you always take a ride to work you might opt for a sharing option with one, two , or three others at an equally reduced rate. You wouldn't know who the others were and clearly there would be a certain delay because of additional pick-ups. But in a future world I can't envisage the delay would be minimal because most people would use such services and so car-pooling would be much more efficient. Today, if you own a car the chance of it being available for you when you need it is very high, but there is no guarantee you won't be stuck in horrendous traffic at peak times. A future with autonomous cars and peak traffic sharing could alleviate that problem, at least. Not to mention the parking!
    If car are automated and they share info locally and globally, efficiency of the roadways increase. speeds can even increase, they can even reroute traffic at a macro level for the best overall flow (though you yourself may think its not the quickest route intuitively). They could even have cars do road trains on freeways to increase flow even more. Since they know the destination, long haul traffic would be automatically put into the very fast left lane in road trains there.

    So, you get faster traffic and since your not driving, you wouldn't mind if it was even the length of the old commute let alone shorter.

    Using those cars would probably cost only slightly less than current cars, say $500 a month.

    Communal automated cars, or even minibuses (say 4-8 people), could exist for people who aren't in a big hurry and are ready to pay significantly less for transport.
    You'd still have a much better experience than public transit with that and much faster.
    This could be something like $200-$300 a month.

    Then you'd get automated public transit, could be constituted of 15-20 person's transport pods that run collecting side routes (thus making the central route more efficient at gathering people) and then assemble into longer trains on major arteries in 8 people road trains with 4 of those pods. Extremely high efficiency and high frequency would be the advantage of those things. The collector buses could also just drop off people near major arteries and go on their tight loops at a high frequencies. Running automated most of the day long like a people movers.

    Cost per month for full usage, $60-$100 (so about the same as public transit now) but with the ability to serve adequately places not normally served by this kind of transit (since collector buses can be much smaller
    edited March 2017
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