21 January 2019
Didi drivers will need to verify their identities through facial recognition before each trip in a carpooling service. Photo: Reuters
Didi drivers will need to verify their identities through facial recognition before each trip in a carpooling service. Photo: Reuters

Didi adds safety measures after passenger murder

Didi Chuxing, China’s biggest ride-hailing services firm, is rolling out a range of safety measures for its carpooling service Didi Hitch following a murder incident involving a passenger earlier this month.

The company said in a statement on Wednesday that it will stop sharing with drivers the personal data of passengers using Didi Hitch, a ride-sharing service that allows passengers traveling in the same direction share the cost of the trip.

The move comes after a female passenger, a 21-year-old flight attendant, was killed earlier this month in Zhengzhou, the capital of China’s Henan province, apparently by a driver.

The killing has sparked an online outcry on Chinese social media, with many expressing safety fears using Didi’s service.

Didi acknowledged that the murder suspect had used his father’s identification, and said the app’s night mode facial recognition failed to detect that the person driving the vehicle was the wrong driver.

As the night safety mechanism was “defective”, the driver was able to operate the vehicle using his father’s Didi account, which then led to a murder.

Didi apologized for the death of the woman and suspended the Hitch service since May 12 to conduct a safety review.

In a statement shared with TechNode, Didi said the Hitch service will continue to be suspended between 10 pm and 6 am as the company evaluates night-time safety guarantees.

In addition, it has decided to remove “all personalized tags and ratings features” from Hitch, and hide profile pictures and personal information of passengers and drivers from public display. 

Revamping its broader offering, the Chinese ride-hailing giant said it will require all drivers on all of its platforms verify their identity with a facial recognition test every day and will enforce compulsory driver facial recognition for each Didi Hitch trip to prevent the unapproved use of the app.

A redesigned emergency help button will be provided, which will share trip information with users’ emergency contacts. The measures will be implemented by May 31, the company said.

Didi is also opening a public consultation on whether to audio record every single journey to better mediate driver-passenger disputes. The recording would be encrypted and stored on Didi servers, then deleted after 72 hours, TechNode reports.

Advertisements for Hitch dating back to 2015 on Didi’s social media accounts show the carpooling service promoted as a way to meet new people, including romantic encounters, Reuters noted.

Didi’s main carpooling services, ExpressPool and Hitch, had the equivalent of nearly 3 million rides a day last year.

Didi Chuxing, valued at US$50 billion, is currently the dominant player in China’s ride-hailing market, and is also the world’s largest ride-hailing firm by number of rides.

The company, which boasts 450 million users, completed over 7.4 billion rides last year, according to reports.

Didi’s backers include Apple and Japanese conglomerate SoftBank Group.

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