China: Didi unveils new R&D facility to explore AI and self-driving tech
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China: Didi unveils new R&D facility to explore AI and self-driving tech

CHINESE ride-sharing company Didi Chuxing has just taken its world domination plans to the next level by opening a US-based research lab for AI and self-driving technology.

As reported by TechCrunch, the research center was in the works as Didi hired a pair of US-based security experts in September to head the lab.

The duo currently work closely with a similar facility in China which opened in 2015.

The Mountain View-based lab will be led by Dr Fengmin Gong and his team of “leading data scientists and researchers,” which include high-profile security researcher Charlie Miller.

Miller is a former hacker for the US National Security Agency, an ex-Twitter engineer and was recently poached by Didi from Uber, where he was a senior engineer handling autonomous vehicle security.

As an expert hacker in the automotive space, Miller is best known for remotely hijacking a journalist’s jeep in 2015 from a laptop 10 miles (16.1km) away – the purpose of the attack was to expose the automotive industry’s vulnerabilities.

Miller’s new role with Didi, according to a recent tweet, will be similar to his work with Uber as it is in the self-driving tech space.

While Didi’s lab opening signifies it is getting into the global AI and self-driving technology game, it doesn’t mean its ride-hailing service is expanding into North America just yet.

The new research center may be a way for Didi to do some overseas research and development (R&D) for future projects and to also ink a few strategic partnerships.

Last week, it announced a partnership with edtech company Udacity to run a self-driving car challenge to “increase driving safety for both manual and self-driving vehicles”.

Five finalists will have a chance to win US$100,000 and also get to work with Didi and Udacity on projects within the automotive space.

Didi appears to be following in the footsteps of Chinese search giant Baidu, which is also running a Silicon Valley-based AI research lab.

SEE ALSO: Cruise control: Baidu rolls out autonomous vehicle test in Wuzhen

Besides doing R&D in the US, Baidu is also pushing into self-driving technology development and has made decent headway so far.

It has received a testing permit from California’s DMV and announced plans to grow its autonomous vehicle research team in Silicon Valley to 100 people.