UPDATED 20:21 EST / AUGUST 26 2018

didijapan EMERGING TECH

China’s Didi Chuxing suspends carpooling service after latest passenger murder

Chinese ride-hailing Didi Chuxing Technology Co. has suspended its Hitch carpooling service after a driver murdered a passenger, the second homicide involving the service since May.

The murder was disclosed by police in the city of Leqing, south of Shanghai on Saturday after they found the body of a 20-year-old female. The South China Morning Post reported Saturday that a Hitch driver was arrested and has since confessed to raping and murdering the woman identified only as Zhao.

Remarkably, the attack took place in broad daylight, with the woman picked up at 1 p.m. local time Friday. She messaged a friend at 2 p.m. that she was in trouble before contact was lost.

The rape and murder occurred despite Didi putting into place additional safety features following the murder of a 21-year-old woman by a Didi driver in the central province of Henan in May.

Changes to the Hitch service, which like Uber Techonlogies Inc.’s Pool matches drivers and passengers with similar routes, included privacy settings so drivers couldn’t see photos of passengers, a compulsory facial recognition system to avoid driver substitution and suspension of the service between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

According to Didi, the man arrested for the rape and murder had no criminal record, had submitted his driver’s license and vehicle identification, and passed the new mandated facial recognition test. Notably, the company did accept that he had been the subject of prior complaints including one by a previous passenger who claimed the driver had taken her to a remote place and followed her after she left the car.

Didi announced the decision to suspend the service Sunday because of “disappointing mistakes” while it reevaluates the product’s business model. The company also said Huang Jieli, Hitch’s general manager, and the company’s vice president for customer services, Huang Jinhong, have been removed from their positions.

The review of the service may be the least of Didi’s problems. Chinese state media criticized Didi for not doing more to prevent such incidents and said the company should face legal punishment.

“These two vicious incidents that have violated the life and safety of passengers have exposed the gaping operational loopholes of the Didi Chuxing platform,” a transport ministry spokesperson was also quoted as saying. “The Ministry demands that Didi … stops making empty promises and takes concrete steps to ensuring passengers’ safety.”

Photo: Didi Chuxing

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