Cheng Wei, founder and chief executive of Didi Chuxing, apologised again for the alleged murder of a 20-year-old passenger by one of its drivers, saying the country’s largest ride-hailing platform “lacked experience” and did not have enough “reverence or guard” when it came to safety practices.
Cheng made the remarks in a Wednesday meeting with an inspection team led by the Ministry of Transport as authorities launched two weeks of on-site checks at Chinese ride-hailing companies.
The start-up, widely celebrated in China for beating back Uber Technologies in 2016, has “lost its sense of safety as the bottom line” and deviated from its original mission of providing “green, shared mobility”, Beijing Daily reported Cheng as saying to the ministry officials.
“Didi over emphasised reducing mortality and injury caused by car accidents or driver-passenger confrontations, while not paying enough attention to malicious crime that was deemed to have a lower chance [of happening],” he said.
Cheng also said the company will strengthen cooperation with government authorities and coordinate with supervising departments to enhance driver background checks.
Didi has pledged to spend 140 million yuan (US$20.5 million) to strengthen its in-house customer service team from 5,000 to 8,000 people by year end.
The Beijing-based company also decided to suspend all ride-hailing services on the Chinese mainland between 11pm and 5am for one week as it overhauls its safety practices, it said in a statement on Tuesday.
The week-long halt in late-night services, starting from this Saturday, will allow Didi to phase in added safety measures, including upgrading an in-car panic button as a direct link to the police. It will also trial in-trip audio recording and intensify background checks of drivers, according to the statement.
The revamp comes in the wake of the second alleged murder of a young, female passenger by a Didi driver, which put the company back under intense scrutiny after its previous efforts to improve passenger safety failed to prevent the crime.
A review of public court records by the South China Morning Post showed at least a dozen sexual assault convictions involving Didi drivers and their passengers.
Police in Yueqing city, in China’s eastern Zhejiang province, last month found the body of a 20-year-old female surnamed Zhao, and arrested a Didi driver who confessed to her rape and murder.
In May, another woman, aged 21, was raped and killed in Zhengzhou, in central China, allegedly by an unregistered Didi driver. Her body was later found in a river.
The National Development and Reform Commission said in a statement last week that various government agencies will coordinate the regulation of ride-hailing operators, while expanding use of the country’s nascent social credit system across the transport sector.
Didi, which counts tech giants Tencent Holdings, Baidu and Alibaba Group Holding as its shareholders, is said to be exploring an IPO and is locked in an ongoing battle with emerging rivals including DiDa Chuxing, UCAR, Geely’s Caocao Car and Meituan Dianping in ride-hailing.
Alibaba is the parent company of the Post.
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