Chinese Uber Nemesis Didi Chuxing Partners with Renault-Nissan on Car Sharing

The partnership could extend to autonomous cars.

Nissan

Chinese Uber rival Didi Chuxing is seeking out automaker partners to help develop a car-sharing service based on electric cars. But these discussions could also lay the groundwork for partnerships related to autonomous cars.

Didi signed a memorandum of understanding with the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance to "explore future business cooperation on a new electric-vehicle car-sharing program in the People's Republic of China," a press release from the automaker said. The company noted that the Didi partnership is part of its Alliance 2022 strategic midterm plan, which also calls for "the launch of robot-vehicle ride-hailing services."

Didi bought Uber's Chinese operations in 2016, and is making moves to compete with the U.S. company in other markets. Uber is aggressively pursuing self-driving cars and, while Didi has done some work in this area, it's not quite on the same level. It wouldn't be surprising if Didi tried to lean on the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance's self-driving car expertise.

For now, Didi is pursuing automakers to supply fleets of cars for its planned all-electric car-sharing service. In addition to Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi, the company has reportedly reached out to Kia, as well as Chinese automakers BAIC, Changan, Zotye, Chery, and Geely, reports Reuters.

A car-sharing service that uses only electric vehicles would put Didi in a good position as China clamps down on carbon emissions. Beginning next year, China will use a credit system that requires automakers to sell certain numbers of electric cars and plug-in hybrids. Automakers are also showing increasing interest in sharing services, and could benefit from teaming up with a company that has experience in that area.

Electrification, autonomous driving, and sharing services are often discussed as being co-dependent, and with good reason. Hybrid and electric powertrains are a good fit for self-driving cars because they can provide the large quantity of electricity needed to run an autonomous car's sensors and computers. Because they can stay on the road more or less indefinitely vs. human drivers, self-driving cars could also boost the earning potential of sharing services. So it's likely that all three trends will be integrated in companies' future business plans.