2. Didi Chuxing

China's uber-disruptor

Founders: Cheng Wei (CEO)
Launched: 2012
Headquarters: Beijing
Valuation: $57.6 billion (PitchBook)
Key technologies:
Artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, deep neural networks/deep learning, Internet of Things, machine learning
Public transportation, taxi and limousine services

D50 Didi Chuxing photo 2019
George Kavallines | CNBC

Despite the ongoing drama involving its U.S.-based ride-sharing rivals Uber and Lyft, Didi Chuxing keeps marching ahead, moving up two spots to No. 2 on this year's Disruptors list. The Beijing, China-based company bills itself as the world's leading mobile transportation platform, with 550 million users and more than 31 million drivers. Now the company is expanding even further afield, launching new markets in Mexico, Australia and Japan last year and acquiring ride-hailing company 99 in Brazil.

Read More: FULL LIST: 2019DISRUPTOR 50

Safety was also a priority in 2018. The company overhauled its technology to improve passenger and driver safety with new AI-focused risk-detection measures. It's also revving up its electric vehicle operations (it had more than 400,000 registered EVs in 2018) by developing EVs with major carmakers — such as Chinese automaker BAIC, Toyota and Volkswagen Group China — and helping cities plan efficient recharging networks using AI.

DiDi's major backer is SoftBank, the Japanese technology conglomerate that is also a big investor in Uber. Another key investor is Booking Holdings. Like Uber, DiDi is in the food-delivery space. Last year it launched the service in Wuxi, a city in Jiangsu Province. It plans to roll it out to other cities soon.

Even with all this Uber imitation, there's no need to worry about the U.S.-based ride-hailing company stealing customers from DiDi. In 2016 DiDi did away with its rival by buying Uber's Chinese business.

Latest Special Reports

  • CNBC Changemakers

    CNBC Changemakers: Women Transforming Business is an annual list spotlighting women whose accomplishments have left an indelible mark on the business world.

  • Unlock the keys to building a successful long-term financial plan: manage your money, grow your money, and protect it.

  • More than ever, the hope for a sustainable world has gained traction among the next generation of businesses, policymakers and investors. CNBC’s Sustainable Future focuses on how smart investments, new ideas and tech innovation can generate commerce — and a world — with staying power.