China’s Largest Taxi On-Demand Company Introduces Shuttle Bus Services

Fresh from raising $2 billion in new funding, Didi Kuaidi, China’s most popular taxi hailing service, has expanded into a new form of transportation: shuttle buses.

Didi Kuaidi was formed when China’s top two transportation apps — Didi Dache and Kuaidi Dache — merged in a multi-billion dollar deal earlier this year. The company recently claimed that it handles three million rides across China, putting it ahead of Uber which does one million daily.

Both Didi Dache and Kuaidi Dache focused heavily on connecting registered taxis with consumers, but this year the merged entity has been moving into new areas of transportation. Didi Bus is its latest expansion following the launch of its peer-to-peer, Uber X-like carpooling service last month. That’s important because P2P is one area where Uber had a big headstart on its Chinese rival; Uber CEO Travis Kalanick recently claimed Uber has more than 50 percent marketshare on peer-to-peer in some cities in China. (Uber is raising $1.5 billion for its business in China, which Kalanick expects will overtake the U.S. as Uber’s biggest market before the end of this year.)

Didi Bus will initially operate in selected parts of Beijing (33 routes) and Shenzhen (10 routes), and there are plans to ramp it up to cover “several hundred” routes in both cities before the end of this month.

Buses are being sourced from leasing companies and licensed travel agencies. Fares are expected to cost from between RMB7-13 ($1.10-$2.10) per ride, but they will be just RMB0.01 for the first week.

Didi Kuaidi explained in a press release that it believes the service will help solve issues with areas that are currently underserved by buses. It added that Didi Bus could transport millions of people per day in the future.

One thing to note about the new service is that it will operate via WeChat, the hugely popular messaging owned by Chinese internet giant Tencent, which is a Didi Kuaidi investor. The service can be accessed via the Didi Bus account inside WeChat, which counts more than 500 million monthly active users, the majority of whom are based in China.

Didi Kuaidi is gearing up to introduce chauffeur services, the third new category that it teased earlier this summer, after adding buses and peer-to-peer options already.