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China’s Didi Chuxing is close to launching a taxi-booking service in Japan

Days after raising $500 million via a strategic investment from travel giant Booking Holdings , Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing has continued its international push with the launch of a local business in Japan. Its new Japan-based unit is a joint venture with SoftBank, a longtime Didi investor, which  has been in the works since an announcement back in February . Today’s news isn’t that the service is live yet — it isn’t — but rather than the JV has been formally launched. Didi did say, however, that it plans to launch services for passengers, drivers and taxi operators in Osaka, Kyoto, Fukuoka, Tokyo and other major cities from autumn this year. Didi said that its users in China and Hong Kong will be able to use the soon-to-launch Japan service through their regular Didi app — that’s interesting since a ‘roaming’ strategy involving Lyft and others arranged years ago never came to fruition. And yes, you did read correctly that taxi operators are part of the target audience. That’s because Japan doesn’t allow unlicensed private cars to operate as taxis. That’s made the country a real challenge for Uber, which has held talks with taxi operators , and it also explains why one of the leading ride-hailing service in Japan — JapanTaxi — is backed by the taxi industry. JapanTaxi is even owned by an insider, Ichiro Kawanabe, who runs Japan’s largest taxi operator Nihon Kotsu and heads up the country’s taxi federation. Working with taxi operators means Didi has a fleet management platform, as above, as part of its Japan-based service. That concession on working with taxis doesn’t necessarily mean that Didi isn’t focused on widening the market by enabling “ride-sharing” with non-taxi drivers in the future. Reuters reports that SoftBank supremo Masayoshi Son — one half of the Didi Japan joint venture — made some family scathing comments at an annual event. “Ride-sharing is prohibited by law in Japan. I can’t believe there is still such a stupid country,” Son is said to have remarked.

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Didi Chuxing can now test self-driving cars in California

Quite a number of companies — 53, to be exact — have received permits to test self-driving cars with a safety driver in California. One of the more notable companies that has received such a permit is China-based Didi Chuxing, which officially opened its U.S.-based research lab last March . Also on the list of permit holders is Udacity, which partnered with Didi last year to host a contest for the development of an Automated Safety and Awareness Processing Stack. In April, the California Department of Motor Vehicles introduced some new regulations and permit application processes for self-driving car companies . The new system entails three autonomous vehicle permit options: testing with a driver, driverless testing and deployment. Most of the new elements of the regulations are around driverless testing and deployment. For example, in order to conduct driverless testing, companies must have previously tested the vehicles in controlled conditions. The vehicles must also, among many other things, meet the definition of an SAE Level 4 or 5 vehicle. With deployment, companies need to ensure cars can detect and respond to roadway situations, meet best practices to detect cyberattacks and more. Another notable permit holder is Apple, which in January expanded its fleet to include 27 cars . Missing from the list, unsurprisingly, is Didi rival Uber. Last week, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said Uber will bring back its self-driving cars “within the next few months, I don’t know.” To be fair, Khosrowshahi didn’t sound 100 percent confident in his answer.

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Uber’s app no longer works in China

Uber has parted ways with its Chinese subsidiary, which is going to prove problematic for tourists looking to hail a ride in the Middle Kingdom. As part of the deal that saw Uber China merge with Didi Chuxing, the global Uber app has been disentangle...

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