Apple announced an investment of $1 billion in China’s largest private ride-hailing service company Didi Chuxing in a move intended to not only better understand the Chinese market, but to finally take the big step into the transportation industry we’ve been expecting.
The large stake in Didi Chuxing gives Apple an open door into Uber’s largest Chinese competitor, which dominates 87 percent of the country’s ride-hailing services equating to something like 11 million rides per day.
According to Reuters, Cook mentioned the massive investment opens the possibility for the two companies to collaborate in the future, further backing reports that the tech giant is secretly working on some sort of self-driving vehicle development code-named “Project Titan” with intentions to enter the automotive industry.
“We are making the investment for a number of strategic reasons, including a chance to learn more about certain segments of the China market,” [Cook] said. “Of course, we believe it will deliver a strong return for our invested capital over time as well.”
Didi Chuxing, formerly known as Didi Kuaidi, said in a statement that the funding from Apple was the single largest investment it has ever received.
Apple has struggled to make a strong foothold in the Chinese market with its existing products. The company hopes the investment will garner a better understanding of the market and stabilize operations, with the added bonus of sneaking in the back door of the transportation industry.
The partnership between General Motors and ride-hailing service Lyft is already preparing a trial run of self-driving ride-hailing vehicles in the next year. It wouldn’t be too surprising if we see a similar effort made between Apple and Didi in the next few years (only they’d still need a car manufacturer).
Of course Apple has already developed the CarPlay interface which streamlines car connectivity for iPhone users in compatible cars, but that was small-time compared to a billion dollar investment in a growing corner of the transportation industry.
Reports of Apple being turned away by German automakers BMW and Daimler over data control further suggests the gadget developer is looking to pivot towards the automotive market. Didi Chuxing looks to be the first step.