Chinese Firm Didi Now Accepts Apple Pay Across its Ride-Hailing Services

Chinese ride-hailing company Didi has added Apple Pay as a payment option to the full range of its personal mobility services (via TechCrunch).

Apple's mobile payment platform can now be used to fund Didi Express, Didi Luxe, Didi Premier, and ofo, a partner bicycle rental service embedded into the main Didi app.

Image via Technode

Support of the digital wallet adds another Apple feature to the Didi service, with customers already able to use Siri to hail a ride and book one from within the Maps app and on their Apple Watch.

In addition to Apple Pay support, the company is also adding an English language service for Didi Luxe to offer luxury limousine services through the ride-hailing platform. Didi Luxe operates in Beijing and is expected to arrive in Shanghai in the next few months.

Last year, Apple made a much-publicized $1 billion investment in Didi, earning it a place on the company's board, so the gradual inclusion of Apple services is to be expected.

The further support of Apple Pay also comes at a good time for Apple, which is seeking to boost use of the mobile payment platform in China and fend off popular rivals like Alipay and WeChat Pay.

Related Roundup: Apple Pay
Tags: China, Didi Chuxing

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Apple-Backed Didi Chuxing Earns Record $5.5B in China Tech Funding, Looks to Driverless as Future

Ride-sharing company Didi Chuxing has raised more than $5.5 billion from investors in China, marking the largest amount of funding earned by a technology company ever in the country. Didi, which Apple invested $1 billion into last year, is believed to use its new funding to expand beyond China, invest in artificial intelligence initiatives, and even look into various driverless and automated vehicle technologies (via Bloomberg).

Specific investors for this round of funding were left unidentified, but people familiar with the investments suggested the likes of SoftBank Group, Silver Lake Kraftwerk, China Merchants Bank Co. and one arm of Bank of Communications Co. were all backing Didi. The company's total valuation is said to have been raised from $34 billion -- which it earned after acquiring Uber's business in China -- to now sit at $50 billion.

Tim Cook catching a ride with Didi Chuxing president Jean Liu

The funding places Didi ahead of Xiaomi's $46 billion valuation, and makes the company the world's second most valuable startup after Uber's $68 billion.
Ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing raised more than $5.5 billion from investors, scoring the largest round of funding ever for a technology company to bankroll an expansion beyond China and into driverless technology.

That price tag would surpass smartphone maker Xiaomi Corp.’s and make Didi the world’s most valuable startup after Uber. Didi amassed $10 billion in cash and equivalents last year, but the deal yields more ammunition as it prepares to challenge Uber and Alphabet Inc. in automated driving, and buys the company time to carve out new revenue streams.
Didi's expansion beyond hailing cars is believed to become "increasingly important," due to China's increasingly strict regulations regarding qualifications for the users who drive Didi vehicles. In places like Beijing and Shanghai, the company's drivers are required to be local residents, preventing what is estimated to be thousands of potential Didi Chuxing drivers from nearby towns and countryside to work for the startup.

As a potential major pillar of its expansion, Didi executives hope that investing into driverless technology research will assist in overcoming hurdles related to China's human driver restrictions. The further Didi investigates and tests driverless technologies, the more data Apple receives on the subject, since the companies are now working together and sharing notes related to autonomous innovations one or the other might make.
Cheng and President Jean Liu hope that adopting driverless technology will help overcome such hurdles in the future. Didi wants to take advantage of data on 400 million users across some 400 cities to aid research into AI and autonomous vehicles. It opened an artificial intelligence lab in Mountain View, California last month, called Didi Labs. And it’s already lured dozens of stalwarts in the field including former Uber auto-security expert Charlie Miller, known for remotely hacking into a Jeep Cherokee in 2015.
While Didi works on implementing driverless rides for its users, Apple is said to be working on a self-driving platform of its own, with a deadline of late 2017 when the company will officially decide on the "feasibility" of its progress on the tech at that time. Just this week, a Lexus SUV was spotted leaving an Apple facility in California, coming equipped with various sensors and cameras and believed to be one of the vehicles Apple is using to test self-driving cars on the road.


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Apple CEO Tim Cook Says Didi Chuxing ‘May Help Traffic Jams Go the Way of the Flip Phone’

Didi Chuxing president Jean Liu has been named one of TIME's 2017 most influential people, and Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote an excerpt about her for the magazine.

In it, Cook calls Liu a "disrupter" for building a transportation platform that offers "convenience and flexibility" to millions of commuters. He lauds Didi Chuxing's work on algorithms that improve traffic, saying the technology could eliminate traffic jams in the future.

She and her team are succeeding with innovative, big-data algorithms that aim both to improve the efficiency of Didi's service and to ease the congestion on roadways. By analyzing commuter patterns the way oceanographers track the tides, Didi may help traffic jams go the way of the flip phone.

In over 400 cities across China, Jean has also built a company that is dedicated to serving the community around it. Guiding Didi to this higher purpose, and giving back to the places where it does business, she shares my belief that companies can and should measure themselves by more than just the bottom line.
Apple CEO Tim Cook met Jean Liu in 2016 after Apple invested $1 billion in the ride-sharing company. Following its investment, Apple was given a Didi Chuxing board seat, held by Adrian Perica, Apple's head of mergers and acquisitions.

Apple's Didi Chuxing investment provides Apple with access to data and expertise on both electric and autonomous car technology, a useful resource as Apple works to develop a self-driving car software platform.


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Apple May Join SoftBank-Backed Investment in Didi Chuxing to Avoid Dilution of its Stake

Chinese ride-sharing company Didi Chuxing is considering a $6 billion investment offer by the Japanese SoftBank Group that could dilute Apple's stake in the company, according to people familiar with the matter.

Bloomberg on Tuesday reported that the potential funding would be the single largest for a Chinese technology startup on record, but that it would mean Beijing-based Didi would have to balance the interests of its more than 100 investors, which include the likes of Alibaba and Foxconn. Apple is now said to be considering if it should join the investment on a pro-rata basis to avoid dilution of its stakes, according to sources.


Apple invested $1 billion in the company last year, earning it a seat on Didi's board. However, overall the startup amassed $10 billion in cash in 2016 in order to fund its efforts to develop driverless technology. The company currently faces stringent regulations that limit the number of private vehicles and drivers it operates, which may delay its timeline for an initial public offering, according to people familiar with the company's business strategy.

SoftBank has been a Didi backer since 2014, but it's not clear if its $6 billion bid would come from Softbank Group or its $100 billion SoftBank Vision Fund, which is expected to close soon and also counts Apple among its investors. Apple has yet to comment on the matter.


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Apple-Backed Didi Chuxing to Open Autonomous Driving Research Facility Near Cupertino

Didi Chuxing, the Chinese-hailing company that Apple invested $1 billion in, is opening an artificial intelligence lab in Mountain View, California, reports Recode. The lab will focus on intelligent driving systems and AI-based security for transportation, confirming Didi Chuxing's interest in self-driving vehicles.

The facility, located less than 10 miles from Apple's two Cupertino campuses, is one of Didi Chuxing's first locations outside of China. Its location in Mountain View gives Didi Chuxing a better opportunity to recruit key autonomous driving talent, most of which is concentrated in the Bay Area. Google, Uber, Apple, and hundreds of other startups are nearby.

Apple CEO Tim Cook with Didi Chuxing president Jean Liu

Didi Chuxing has already poached two high-level employees from Uber and Google. Charlie Miller, the engineer who hacked and stopped a jeep remotely is joining Didi from Uber, while Jia Zhaoyin, a senior software engineer at Waymo, comes from Google.

Apple invested $1 billion in Didi Chuxing back in May 2016, and there has been speculation that the investment could lead to a deeper partnership between Didi Chuxing and Apple in the future as Apple is also working on self-driving technology.

Didi Chuxing is the largest ride-hailing company in China, having purchased Uber's Chinese operations in July 2016.

Rumors originally suggested Apple would develop its own autonomous electric vehicle, but Apple shifted focus last summer and is now said to be aiming to create an autonomous driving system that would perhaps allow it to partner with car manufacturers or ride-hailing companies like Didi Chuxing in the future.


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