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Riders will be able to hail autonomous driving vehicles from Didi app through a pilot robo-taxi service to be launched in Shanghai. Photo: Handout

Didi partners with China’s central bank on digital currency research and development

  • China’s central bank partners with Didi Chuxing to advance its sovereign digital currency payment program trials

Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing (Didi) said it has entered into a strategic partnership with the People’s Bank of China to speed up the research and development of the central bank’s planned digital currency – known as Digital Currency Electronic Payment (DCEP) – via its on-demand transport platform.

“Didi's DCEP task force will design and implement pilot DCEP projects in accordance with rigorous safety, security and governance standards,” Didi said in a statement on Wednesday.

Didi did not provide further details about the time-frame or the procedures for DCEP to be deployed through its platform, but said it will work with the PBOC’s overall DCEP strategy and operational timeline, without elaborating.

Didi Chuxing launches pilot self-driving robotaxi service in Shanghai

As a leading player in China’s mobility services industry and as a long-standing Uber rival, Didi currently provides on-demand transport services to more than 550 million users across China, Asia, Latin America and Australia.

Didi’s app allows users to pay for ride-hailing services with bank-issued credit cards and the two dominant e-payment platforms in China – Alipay and WeChat Pay - used for more than 90 per cent of mobile payments in China currently.

China is the first major economy to study the serious application of a sovereign digital currency, with work on the project starting back in 2014. China’s version of a sovereign digital currency, the DCEP, is expected to simulate everyday banking activities including payments, deposits and withdrawals from a digital wallet.

A screenshot of the user interface for the digital yuan sparked speculation of an imminent launch of the sovereign digital currency in April. But Chinese central bank governor Yi Gang said in May that China still had no firm timetable for launch and the limited public trials set to begin soon were just “routine parts of the research and development process.”