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DiDi starts autonomous driving trial in Shanghai, but is Australia ready?

By Tony O’Kane, 02 Sep 2019 Car News

DiDi starts autonomous driving trial in Shanghai, but is Australia ready?

Chinese ridesharing company DiDi will now allow the public to hail a robotic taxi in Shanghai, but are Australians comfortable with sharing the road with self-driving cars over here?

DiDi, China’s answer to US-based ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft, has announced the beginning of a pilot autonomous taxi service in Shanghai.

Similar to autonomous tech trails run by Uber in certain US cities, DiDi’s Shanghai trail will put 30 cars modified with a level four self-driving capability – the second-highest possible in the five-level autonomous car tech tree – on public roads, able to be called up via DiDi’s phone app.

They won’t be entirely robotic, however, with DiDi saying it will use a “mixed dispatching model” with both human-driven and self-driving vehicles in some areas owing to the “complex traffic and road conditions” of Shanghai.

You’ll be able to spot the self-driving ones from afar though: the sensor package appears to be mostly contained on a roof-mounted pallet, with what appears to be a LIDAR scanner right at the very top. Given an autonomous taxi operated by Uber has already claimed the life of a pedestrian, DiDi’s technology and human operators will need to be vigilant to prevent a similar occurrence in Shanghai.

READ MORE: Self-driving cars are further away than you think

But what about Australia’s moves toward autonomy? So far, nothing on the scale of DiDi or Uber’s respective self-driving fleets has been unleashed on Australian roads, but low-level experimentation is nevertheless going on in Melbourne, South Australia, New South Wales and Brisbane.

Some of those local trials are taking place on public roads, some on closed circuits, but what say you? Is conducting public trials of experimental technology something you’d be comfortable with? Would you hop into an autonomous taxi in Sydney, Melbourne or any of our crowded capitals? Have your say in our poll below: