Didi Chuxing, China’s largest taxi-booking platform, began testing autonomous cars connected to a vehicle-to-everything (V2X) network in parts of Shanghai.

In a statement, the company said it launched an on-demand robotaxi service in a designated open-traffic area covering Shanghai’s Automobile Exhibition Centre, local business districts, subway stations and downtown hotels.

Customers are being offered free transporation in the vehicles, which still have a driver for safety purposes. A control centre monitors the vehicles and road conditions in real time to offer remote command assistance, using V2X hardware deployed at the main intersections in the area.

Didi Chuxing founder and CEO Cheng Wei said AI will “no doubt revolutionise safety and efficiency of the urban transit system”, noting autonomous vehicles will take “at least a decade of continued investment” before passing “critical technology, business and regulatory milestones; but we are determined to tackle the challenges ahead”.

The company claimed to be the first to obtain a passenger-carrying service licence for autonomous vehicles in Shanghai. In late May, it completed a $500 million fundraising round for its autonomous driving subsidiary, led by SoftBank’s Vision Fund 2.