Didi Chuxing Opens Lab and Partners with University of Toronto

Another international tech company has decided to set up shop in Toronto.

The newest inhabitant of Toronto’s scene is Didi Chuxing, the ride-hailing service based in China. Launched as Didi Labs, this new research facility will focus on AI and automated driving and is the second such location in North America—the other is located in Silicon Valley and opened in 2017. The rise-sharing company also has several partnerships with research institutions and companies around the globe. Didi has over 500 million users and 31 million drivers, making it the largest ride-sharing service in the world.

Didi Labs Toronto will be led by Jun Yu, an SVP at Didi and the chair of their product and design committee.

“Toronto’s inclusive environment for innovation and entrepreneurship makes it an incredible location for tech investment,” said Yu. “We look forward to actively contributing to the flourishing local tech ecosystem, and to building deep partnerships for smart and sustainable transportation solutions locally and globally.”

Many international technology companies have set up shop in Toronto recently to explore and research AI, including NVIDIA and Samsung. Didi Chuxing’s main North American competitor Uber also has a lab in Toronto that focuses on automated driving technology.

Along with the announcement of Didi Labs Toronto, the ride-sharing service also partnered with the University of Toronto (U of T) to research new insights into different transportation networks around the world. The two have signed a memorandum of understanding allowing Didi to tap into U of T’s AI expertise while Didi will look to fund U of T research and graduate student awards. The hope is that both will gain knowledge surrounding areas beyond transportation, even extending into computer vision and smart cities.

didi chuxing university of toronto

“While DiDi is headquartered in Beijing, their network reaches over 80 per cent of the world’s population – geographies including China, but also Brazil, Mexico, Australia and Japan,” said Ted Sargent, U of T’s vice-president international. “So you can only imagine that, for the university’s roboticists, traffic engineers or computer vision experts, collaborating with DiDi means they get to have [both] a multiplicative impact and have a real impact on people’s lives.”

The head of Didi Labs in Silicon Valley, Fengmin Gong, delivered an open lecture earlier this week at U of T discussing how the company uses its 30 million daily trips to analyze traffic patterns, improve highway transport, and more. These are the insights U of T is hoping to learn and apply to their own research.

“We are attracted to the talent at U of T and the very well-known research activities by the faculty,” said Gong during a question and answer session following his lecture. “To us, it’s really about the ecosystem–the talented students and faculty, the startups and entrepreneurship culture.”