Tencent Map—a Google Maps-like app mostly used to find directions—has integrated several ride-hailing companies with the platform, such as Didi Chuxing, allowing users to order rides from directly within it. The new feature, available from Tuesday as a trial run, is currently available in Dongguan, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, and Xi’an, according to Tencent News, an online news portal owned by Tencent.
If trials in the four cities are successful, the service will be expanded nationwide before the National Day holiday, which starts on October 1.
Didi, which counts Tencent among its investors, has not replied to KrASIA‘s request for comment.
Tencent Map, which had 40 million users in the third quarter of last year, is the third most popular mapping app in China, trailing far behind Baidu Map, with nearly 559 million users and Gaode, with 527 million users, according to data from market research firm Analysys.
With both of its better-known competitors having integrated ride-hailing features into their apps already, the move allows Tencent Map to offer similar services to its users.
“We have never given up on Tencent Map,” one source inside the mapping unit told Tencent News. The source added that the map app is a strategic product for Tencent, which is too important for the internet giant’s enterprise-facing and government-facing businesses to be left behind.
Map apps aren’t the only ones integrating ride-hailing services. Rather, many companies in China with geo-location functions are increasingly expanding to become do-everything on-demand hubs. For example, Meituan, the largest food delivery app, and Ant Group-backed Hello Chuxing, one of the major bike-share firms in the country, both offer ride-hailing services on their platforms.
Despite tech companies’ efforts to facilitate on-demand mobility, taxis or ride-hail vehicles still do not meet the demand for this kind of service, leading Chinese companies to launch ambitious initiatives to make autonomous cabs a reality. Baidu itself has rolled out robotaxi services in cities including Changsha and Beijing, while WeRide, counting AI unicorn SenseTime among its investors, has been operating a robotaxi fleet in Guangzhou since November.