We finally have some clues as to what Didi Chuxing may do with some of its $1 billion Apple investment.
In case you’re not familiar, Didi is an extremely popular ride-hailing app in China that is basically crushing Uber and other competitors in the region.
The company averages about 11 million rides a day, and has 300 million users across 400 Chinese cities. What’s more, it completed 1.4 billion rides in 2015 alone.
By comparison, Uber is active in 60 cities across China, with plans to reach 100 cities by 2016. Uber’s carpooling service, UberPOOL, was completing 20 million rides per month as of May.
Recently, Apple bet big on Didi by investing $1 billion. So far, both Didi and Apple have kept mum about how exactly that money would be used, but the company did tell Tech Insider several ways it plans to grow its business in the near-term.
Here’s what Didi has in mind to keep its momentum going and secure a competitive edge over Uber in new countries.
Stepping outside of China
In April, Didi launched a roaming service in the United States so users could access the app in cities like New York, Seattle, and San Francisco. The service allows the Didi app to access Lyft drivers so Chinese users travelling in the U.S. can still hail apps through a familiar interface.
Didi has plans to roll out its roaming service throughout 2016 in places like Southeast Asia and India. The strategy allows Didi to focus on growth in China while keeping users on the app when they leave the country for vacation or work.
Hailing a limo
Didi currently offers seven different services. The app lets you hail a private car or taxi, just like Uber. Also similar to UberPOOL, Didi has a service called Hitch that lets you carpool with others to cut down on costs.
But Didi also lets you book a chauffeur for an extended period of time, test drive a car from a local car dealer, and find and purchase tickets for a Didi shuttle bus. You can read more about Didi’s existing services here.
Now Didi is planning on eventually rolling out a limo service.
“What we need from China is not just a cool app for the middle to upper class, but a multi-product platform that offers a fully range of services like a bus to a limo service eventually to other facets,” Liang Sun, head of communications for Didi, told Tech Insider.
Using AI for a better app experience
With the world’s largest population, China has some major traffic issues. Just think of the China National Highway 110 traffic jam, where thousands of vehicles were stuck for 60 miles in a span of ten days.
That poses problems for apps like Didi, which want to give accurate pick-up estimates, especially in situations like Hitch where a driver is picking up multiple people from different locations.
Having an underlying algorithm that can make it easier for drivers to pick up riders in a timely fashion is important in China. That’s why Didi is continuously putting together a data scientist team lead by deep learning experts. Deep learning is a branch of artificial intelligence that works on having machines learn things on their own.
Didi is channeling a lot of resources into making its app’s underlying algorithm stronger in order to improve the driver and rider experience. Didi even replaced the taxi system’s archaic phone dispatch system with a digital taxi management service to better manage the Chinese taxi fleet.
Sun said Didi is doing such a good job at refining its app that it was able to corner the ride-hailing market.
“In 2014, there were literally dozens of aspiring taxi hailing apps in China, and we ended up consolidating the market,” she said.
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