Finally catching up with the rest of world? China’s Didi to update bus service with real-time checking

Uber China’s rival Didi Chuxing announced major upgrades to their bus service on Thursday. Three major services were added: real-time bus info inquiry, bus rental, and shuttle buses.

While bus rental is mainly for group travel and shuttle buses are a supplement to regular buses, the service of real-time bus info inquiry – that allows passengers to check the estimated time of arrival (ETA) of buses and subways – is expected to bring big changes to the public transportation landscape in China.

For decades, taking the the bus in China has been unnecessarily time consuming, because there is no electronic system to track and report an ETA for passengers. Mostly, you could only blindly wait for the next bus, without knowing when it may arrive.

In some other parts of the world, like the US, Britain, and Japan, public transport tracking systems are much more developed, with various real-time checking apps for public transportation. For example, many bus stops in the UK are built with an electronic display showing the ETA of each bus.

“There are only 20% of people who are covered by subway or bus in China. The remaining people still rely on bicycle, and a small percentage on other forms of transport,” said Didi Chuxing president Jean Liu at the 2016 Code Conference on Wednesday. “I think working with public transportation is definitely something that’s good for us.”

From left to right: Walt Mossberg, Kara Swisher, Jean Liu, Anthony Tan. Photo Credit: Asa Mathat for Vox Media
From left to right: Walt Mossberg, Kara Swisher, Jean Liu, Anthony Tan.
Photo Credit: Asa Mathat for Vox Media

Take the capital for example: according to Beijing Public Transport, the city saw 3.8 billion bus trips completed in 2015. The bus service is an indispensable part of Didi’s comprehensive product platform.

Didi Bus officially went online last July. This recent upgrade, where Didi is using big data for smart public transport, allows passengers to access Didi’s ETA service for more efficient transport planning. Using this service, you can look up the ETA of your bus before setting out, thereby allowing a passenger to stay longer in the comfort of their home or office, a much better choice than a clueless wait on the street.

With good feedback from the southern Chinese city Ningbo where the service was first piloted, the real-time checking of bus routes and timings have covered seven cities including Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou. Didi plans to expand the bus service nationwide.

Didi is now China’s largest ride-hailing platform. It completed 1.43 billion rides in 2015, and now covers over 400 cities with more than 11 million orders daily, according to company figures.

(Top photo from Baidu Images)

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