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2018-05-16 12:55:43

China’s biggest ride-hailing company, Didi Chuxing, will implement a range of new safety measures, the company said in a document sent to Sixth Tone on Wednesday. The announcement comes in the wake of the high-profile case of a 21-year-old flight attendant who was allegedly murdered by her Didi driver.

Last week, netizens revealed that Didi Hitch — the cost-saving service that the victim had used — included a passenger review system that drivers had turned into a “hot-or-not” function with tags and comments rating customers’ appearances. On Friday, Didi announced that it would suspend the Hitch service for a week, and said that the suspect had used his father’s account in violation of the company’s rules.

The notorious review system will now be removed altogether. “All personalized tags and ratings features that are part of the Hitch service will be taken down,” the company wrote in Wednesday’s statement. Moreover, Didi will suspend the Hitch service from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., and a safety reminder will pop up for requests sent before 10 p.m. that are expected to be completed after that time.

To avoid “unapproved account use,” driver facial recognition will be compulsory on every Didi Hitch trip, and on a daily basis for three other ride-sharing services — Didi Express, Didi Premier, and Didi Luxe — the statement added. A reward program will incentivize users to report mismatches. The company will also make emergency help functions more prominent on the app’s interface, so customers can call the police, ambulance, or traffic emergency numbers directly, as well as the company’s own emergency hotline.

Amid growing safety concerns over ride-sharing apps, Sixth Tone also reached out to Didi rival Meituan but had not received comment by the time of publication.

Didi also sought advice from the public via social media platforms WeChat and Weibo regarding two proposed measures.

One suggestion was to enable voice recording during every ride, to ensure there was evidence in cases where drivers and passengers disputed allegations of harassment or other misconduct. The recordings would be uploaded to Didi’s servers with encryption and deleted automatically after 72 hours. “We understand that not everyone is comfortable with having their trips recorded,” the company wrote. “Nevertheless, this could be a most effective means to enhance safety standards, and to ensure adequate evidence support for potential dispute resolution.”

Another concerned background checks for drivers: The company asked whether individuals should be excluded if they had criminal records for offences that did not involve violence against persons, property, or public security.

Users on microblog platform Weibo shared their views. One user opposed the idea of voice recording. “For genuine private car owners who occasionally take some Hitch orders, they don’t want to have so much of their private business exposed, and sometimes they have their family members, friends or colleagues in [the vehicle] too.”

Many felt the measures were biased against drivers. “Why is there no facial recognition for passengers? Is there no need to guarantee car owners’ safety?” one user asked. Another suggested that the app should retain a passenger review system but ban sexist or inappropriate tags and comments. “There are bad Didi Hitch drivers, so there must also be bad passengers,” they said.

Editor: Qian Jinghua.

(Header image: A man installs lightboxes advertising the Didi Hitch service in Beijing, Jan. 24, 2018. Ma Dong/VCG)