China car app Didi updates safety measures after murder

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China car app Didi updates safety measures after murder

China’s leading car-hailing firm is overhauling its service following the murder of one of its users.

It is suspending its carpooling service at night, while it is considering making an audio recording of all journeys.

The proposals were made 10 days after a 21-year-old air stewardess was killed after booking a ride via Didi Chuxing’s Hitch app in the city of Zhengzhou.

The government had accused the firm of putting profit before passenger safety.

“Some ride-hailing companies have not assumed the necessary social responsibilities, but have indulged in violations of the interests of their drivers and passengers,” said a notice posted on the Ministry of Transport’s Mandarin-language website last Friday.

“These companies only use online vehicles as a tool to increase valuation. They do not take the feelings of the people to their hearts, they only look at the faces of investors.”

Didi Chuxing claims to be the world’s largest ride-hailing service, with more than 450 million users and 21 million drivers.

It offers 13 different services and Hitch – its carpooling option – pairs riders travelling in the same direction.

The young woman – Li Mingzhu – was found dead earlier this month after hailing a Hitch service.

The driver – a 26-year-old male who abandoned his vehicle and jumped in a river – has since also been found dead, according to the South China Morning Post.

Some reports suggest that the suspect had stolen his father’s Hitch account.

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The Hitch service has previously faced criticism from users who complain that the app allows drivers to leave comments on their profiles regarding their appearance.

Currently drivers are vetted through verification of personal ID, driving licence and vehicle registration certificates as well as background checks.

The firm said that it would now also implement the following changes to its Hitch service:

  • take down all personalised tags and ratings features that are part of the service
  • all publicly-displayed profile pictures will be replaced with a system-generated default image
  • driver facial recognition to be made compulsory for every trip

And for all its services, it said it would do the following:

  • every driver must pass a facial recognition test every day when they start
  • the emergency help function will be redesigned and displayed more prominently in the app
  • a report and reward programme to encourage all users to report mismatch cases

The firm is also considering recording audio and possibly filming each ride, both of which would be an opt-in measure.

Didi Chuxing counts Apple among its investors and recently received a licence to test self-driving cars in California, a year after it opened a Silicon Valley research lab to develop autonomous driving technology.

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