• In less than 10 years, driverless taxis are projected to service up to a quarter of all kilometres passengers travel on shared mobility in major Chinese cities.
  • Tests for driverless taxis have been taking place in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.
  • The market for shared mobility passenger kilometres is expected to grow from 177 billion to 450 billion by 2030.
  • One Chinese company has pledged to build 1,000 driverless vehicles in the next three years.

Tests with driverless taxi services have been underway in China's major cities, also called tier-one cities, including Beijing and Shanghai. Still a novelty today, robotaxis are expected to experience a quick rollout in China's main metropolises. Numbers by McKinsey & Company show that less than ten years down the line, driverless taxis are projected to service between a fifth and a quarter of all kilometres passengers travel on shared mobility in those cities.

a chart showing the expected growth of china's robot taxis
Driverless taxis are projected to service between a fifth and a quarter of all kilometres passengers travel.
Image: Statista

The projected expansion of robotaxis' market share will negatively affect both ride-hailing and ride-sharing/car rental. Still, in the growing Chinese market, there is plenty of room as shared mobility passenger kilometres are expected to grow from 177 billion in 2020 to approximately 450 billion by 2030.

What's the World Economic Forum doing about the future of cities?

Cities represent humanity's greatest achievements - and greatest challenges. From inequality to air pollution, poorly designed cities are feeling the strain as 68% of humanity is predicted to live in urban areas by 2050.

The World Economic Forum supports a number of projects designed to make cities cleaner, greener and more inclusive.

These include hosting the Global Future Council on Cities and Urbanization, which gathers bright ideas from around the world to inspire city leaders, and running the Future of Urban Development and Services initiative. The latter focuses on how themes such as the circular economy and the Fourth Industrial Revolution can be harnessed to create better cities. To shed light on the housing crisis, the Forum has produced the report Making Affordable Housing a Reality in Cities.

Across all of China, robotaxis are expected to hold a market share of around 5% of shared mobility kilometres by the same time. Of course, Chinese tech giants want a piece of the new segment, with internet powerhouse Baidu squaring off against ride-hailing giant Didi. Baidu, which builds autonomous cars together with its business partners, has pledged to build 1,000 driverless vehicles in the next three years, while Didi is also rolling out its driverless taxis in a trial phase. Guangzhou, another Chinese tier-one city, meanwhile is the testing ground for the robotaxi fleets of startups WeRide, which partners with Nissan, and Pony.ai.