Chinese tech company Didi Chuxing has permission to test self-driving cars on public roads in California as of May 10, according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles website, where permit holders are listed. That could be bad news for Uber.
Didi bought Uber's Chinese ride-hailing operations in 2016 and is expected to compete directly with the U.S. company in Mexico. Self-driving car tests represent another angle from which Didi could attack Uber, which suspended its own tests after a fatal crash in Arizona in March. Didi is one of multiple Chinese tech companies aiming to develop self-driving cars.
Baidu was granted a California testing permit in 2016 and has a research center in the state. The company also recently received permission to test autonomous cars on the streets of Beijing. Alibaba is reportedly testing autonomous cars in its home country, and Tencent is allegedly developing its own autonomous-driving system.
It's unclear if Didi's California self-driving car tests will lead to a commercial presence in the U.S. The company hasn't publicly discussed plans for a U.S. ride-hailing service, although it has encroached on rival Uber's territory with plans to launch in Mexico, as well as its purchase of Brazilian ride-hailing company 99, giving it access to another one of Uber's key markets.
Meanwhile, Uber's self-driving car tests are on hold pending investigations into the fatal crash, in which a car struck a pedestrian pushing a bicycle across a street at night. During the recent Uber Elevate conference, CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said he expects testing to resume "within the next few months," pending the closing of independent investigations and Uber's own internal safety review. But the company will need to apply for new permits in California and Arizona, which could drag out the process.