China’s Didi D1 is a fully-electric car made exclusively for e-hailing

China’s ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing has unveiled the D1, the world’s first EV built specifically for the purpose of ride hailing. Co-developed with BYD – one of the world’s largest EV manufacturer, the cutesy green EV will be rolled out as a pilot programme in Changsha, China, before being gradually expanded to serve more customers across the country.

While technical specifications are scarce, automotive journalist Greg Kable reports that the Didi D1 is powered by an electric motor, capable of a 100 kW (134 hp) output. Electrons come from BYD’s blade lithium ion batteries built in the firm’s Chongqing factory to provide up to 418 km of range based on the NEDC test cycle.

Much like a Tesla Model 3, most of the features on board are controlled via a central touchscreen display – which Didi calls “Didi Smart Driver” – while a small LCD display lies behind the steering wheel specifically for the speedometer display.

The Didi Smart Driver system ties in directly with Didi’s ride hailing service, which takes care of driver verification using facial recognition, pick-up and drop-off, payments, as well as customer service. Drivers can interact with the system either via the screen itself, on-board voice assistant, or the Didi-specific smart steering wheel.

The Didi D1 even comes with touch screen at the back of the front seats – one on each headrests – for passengers to access navigation and other information. An outward facing multi-coloured light on the dashboard also helps customers identify their rides, based on the corresponding colour on their app.

Other features that make it particularly suitable for ride-hailing purposes include an extra-comfy driver seat for extended usage, extra legroom at the rear, as well as sliding rear doors for the passenger compartment, preventing riders from accidentally hitting other passengers or cyclists.

The Didi D1 will also come with a level-two assisted driving system, which includes features such as autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, as well as pedestrian collision warning. The driver monitoring system ensures the driver’s hands are on the wheel, and their eyes focused on the road.

The D1 has been in development by the two companies for over two years. Didi says that it has integrated “the needs of hundreds of millions of users” into the design of D1 by leveraging its data analytics and user feedback from its existing userbase. Didi currently has 550 million registered passengers and 31 million drivers, delivering as much as 60 million trips per day.

During the product launch event, Didi also says that the company aims to have one million autonomous Didi vehicles on the road by 2025, and in 2030, removing the driver compartment altogether in their cars.


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