Didi may relaunch a carpooling service that was shut after two murders

Posted at 2:10 AM, Jul 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-19 05:34:14-04

Didi Chuxing is considering reviving Hitch, a carpooling service it suspended indefinitely last year after two female passengers were murdered.

China’s top ride-hailing company said in a statement that it was putting forward a new product design and safety features for public consultation but added it has “no definite timetable yet for relaunching Hitch.”

At a press conference on Thursday, Didi executives laid out the new safety features that have been added to Hitch. They include stronger screening checks for drivers and passengers, using facial recognition to weed out people fraudulently using someone else’s identity, and minimizing the display of personal information such as gender.

Women users will also now have access to a “Safety Assistant” that gives them more information about their driver, including driving history and details of a background check.

Didi faced public outrage and criticism from the Chinese government last year after two female passengers were murdered by Hitch drivers. Slammed for putting growth and profit ahead of passenger safety, Didi indefinitely suspended Hitch last August.

In one of the murders, the suspect had used his father’s Hitch account, breaching the service’s rules, according to Didi. The company said the father had passed the verification process and criminal background checks required by the company.

The crisis came just as Didi was expanding its global footprint, taking on Uber in key markets like Mexico, Brazil and Australia.

Didi president Jean Liu acknowledged Thursday that Hitch is “controversial within the company,” but she added that the carpooling service also “produces huge social value.” Before it was suspended, Hitch regularly received up to two million daily orders, Liu said.

The company had previously said it will spend 2 billion yuan ($290 million) to upgrade safety and security systems this year, including better software and driver training and education. It also removed more than 300,000 drivers from its platform since the murders.

Didi was last valued at $56 billion and accounts for about 90% of China’s ride-hailing market, according to a recent study from consulting firm Bain & Company.