What it is: Apple invested $1 billion dollars in Didi Chuxing, the Chinese version of Uber. Now Didi Chuxing is opening a self-driving laboratory near Apple.
The future is easy to predict if you just open your eyes. The antiquated world of taxis is over with the introduction of ride-sharing services. Uber may be the most popular ride-sharing service in most of the Western world but in China, Didi Chuxing is the ride-sharing leader. Ride-sharing services are far more convenient and less expensive than taxis, which essentially eliminates all possible advantages of taxis.
Trying to compete with no advantages means you’ll just slowly go bankrupt until you disappear for good. Expect taxis and taxi stands to become as rare as public pay phone booths.
Yet ride-sharing services will also change. Right now, ride-sharing services rely on human drivers, but Uber and other ride-sharing companies like Didi Chuxing are already experimenting with self-driving cars. The eventual plan is for self-driving cars to drive around town, picking up and dropping off passengers without relying on a human driver at all.
Not only will eliminating the driver cut costs, but it will increase efficiency since self-driving cars can drive the shortest and most economical route possible. Eliminate gas-powered cars and replace them with electric vehicles that can recharge through solar panels and you essentially have an independent ride-sharing service that can generate profits through automation alone.
That’s why it’s no surprise that Didi Chuxing is opening up a self-driving, artificial intelligence laboratory in Silicon Valley near Apple. Apple’s Project Titan involves cars of the future and that will definitely include self-driving cars. Apple will likely design the software controlling the self-driving car while other companies will manufacture the actual hardware, much like Apple currently does with the iPhone and the Macintosh. The design may still be under Apple’s name but Apple doesn’t build the hardware themselves.
Apple’s investment in Didi Chuxing and Didi Chuxing’s self-driving laboratory near Apple simply means Apple and Did Chuxing will share information to develop self-driving cars. Didi Chuxing already provides 14 million rides a day in China, which is four times the amount of rides that Uber provides. All that driving data can only help Apple and Didi Chuxing develop smarter self-driving cars. The more data machine learning programs can access, the smarter they can get.
So the future is easy to predict. Self-driving cars are coming and they’ll likely be used for ride-sharing services to generate profits for companies like Uber and Didi Chuxing. Apple will also be involved in self-driving technology in some way with rivals like Google and Tesla competing against each other. Most likely, the software controlling self-driving cars will be roughly equal, but that will define the future of self-driving cars.
Most likely, one company won’t dominate the self-driving software market like Microsoft Windows dominates the desktop PC market, but because the self-driving market will be so huge, everyone can grab a slice of the profitable pie. Some companies will likely specialize in niche self-driving technology like long-haul trucks while others will focus on ride-sharing services and consumer vehicles. Still others may specialize in military vehicles or space exploration vehicles.
The biggest market for self-driving cars won’t be car ownership to individuals but ride-sharing services that will be far more convenient for people in urban settings to use regularly. Self-driving cars are coming soon and ride-sharing services will be the first popular application for them.
Although nobody can predict the future accurately, it is easy to predict the general trends of the future. Taxis are obsolete. Car ownership will fade in importance much like retail shopping malls are fading in importance. Self-driving cars and ride-sharing services are going to make car ownership and parking lots obsolete over time. By collecting data from Didi Chuxing’s massive ride-sharing service, Apple stands to collect for more driving data than rivals such as Uber or Google. How Apple will use this data will likely be the next revolutionary breakthrough product coming from Apple and their much rumored Project Titan Apple Car project.