The Chinese ride-hailing giant announced that, starting from November 20, the new Hitch service will be tested in seven Chinese cities including Harbin, Taiyuan, Shijiazhuang, Chanzhou, Shenyang, Beijng and Nantong (the latter three cities will begin testing on November 29).
The trial relaunch of Hitch will come with enhanced safety features and a now-canceled women’s safety program. “The trial starts with trips under 50 kilometers in metro areas between 5am and 8pm for female users, and 5am and 11pm for male users. Service fees will be waived during the trial operation,” the announcement says. However, after receiving criticism from its users, Didi quickly changed this time policy, now allowing all passengers to use the ride-sharing service from 5am to 8pm.
Furthermore, to improve safety and user experience during a Hitch ride, Didi will include measures like ID and facial verification, background checks on drivers by local public security bureaus, real-time location sharing with a friend or family member, a dedicated 24/7 safety line, as well as examining drivers’ social credit scores prior to partnering with Didi. Users’ picture and gender will no longer be displayed in order to protect their privacy. If an unusually long stop is detected, the app will automatically notify passengers’ emergency contact.
A ‘female safety assistant’ will be available in the Hitch function, allowing women to check their Didi driver’s age, driving experience and the driver’s face to ensure it’s their real Didi driver. A ‘behavior score’ will also be administered for drivers to rate passengers’ behavior based on factors such as ‘agreement honoring,’ ‘rule following,’ ‘tidiness’ and ‘friendliness.’ Passengers with low behavior scores will have a more difficult time getting a Hitch ride.
Didi Chuxing’s ride-sharing service became a popular mobility function when it was first introduced in 2015. Apart from ride-sharing in Chinese cities, the app also allows drivers and passengers to connect for long-haul intercity journeys. After the murders of passengers by Didi drivers during Hitch rides, the mobility enterprise has taken various measures to ensure users’ safety, adding a panic button, audio recording and an emergency contact to its app.
But it’s important to note that Didi drivers are also susceptible to heinous crimes. Last December, a Didi driver in Guizhou province was robbed and murdered after being held at knifepoint. His body was later found in a river outside of Guiyang.
[Cover image via Sina]