Over recent months, Didi Chuxing has accelerated its autonomous vehicle ambitions, including the signing of a deal with car maker BAIC Group to co-develop customized driverless cars featuring Level 4 autonomy. Credit: Handout.

Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing is dreaming big — it has finally specified the number of autonomous vehicles it aims to operate by 2030 as part of ongoing efforts to build a smart transport system.

At an online conference on Tuesday, Meng Xing, chief operating officer of Didi’s autonomous driving subsidiary, said the company plans to operate more than one million self-driving cars through its platform by 2030, Caixin Global reported.

The “robotaxis” are expected to be deployed in places that lack ride-hailing drivers, Reuters quoted Meng as saying.

Over recent months, Didi has accelerated its autonomous vehicle ambitions, including the signing of a deal with car maker BAIC Group to co-develop customized driverless cars featuring Level 4 autonomy.

That tie-up came a month after Didi raised US$500 million from SoftBank for its autonomous driving subsidiary, Caixin Global reported.

Didi spun off its autonomous driving unit into a standalone company last year, when it announced plans to start using self-driving cars to transport passengers in the cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen in 2020 before expanding the project outside of China.

In China’s emerging “robotaxi” market, Didi is facing competition from several domestic players including Baidu, Pony.ai, AutoX and WeRide, Caixin Global reported.

Baidu, which is known for its Apollo self-driving platform, is trialing its “robotaxi” service in parts of Changsha, capital of Central China’s Hunan province, with a backup driver present in the car in case of emergency.

According to BBC news, US tech giant Apple ploughed US$1 billion into Didi in an unusually large and public investment in 2016.

Apple is known to be interested in the development of autonomous driving, having tested its own driverless vehicle on public roads in California in recent years.