tragic murder of a female passenger, Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing has decided to implement some changes to its systems, which had somehow managed to make increase the dangers of hitchhiking for young women.ollowing the
To catch a ride to her home in downtown Zhengzhou from the airport, the 21-year-old flight attendant, surnamed Li, had used Didi’s “Hitch” feature which allows car owners to pick up passengers who happen to be going in their same direction in exchange for a bit of gas money.
Unfortunately, Li never made it home and was instead found dead by police, half-naked and with multiple stab wounds inflicted by her Hitch driver who had then jumped into a nearby river and drowned to death.
The grisly murder became one of the most discussed topics on Chinese social media last week with netizens shining a spotlight on Didi’s security loopholes and the safety issues with its Hitch service in particular.
In an apparent attempt at social networking, Hitch had allowed both drivers and passengers to create public profiles where others could give them ratings or reviews. Quickly, these profiles became a way for sleazy drivers to rate female riders based on their looks, tagging women as having “sexy legs” or “amazing bodies” with the women having no way of removing the inappropriate comments. The system also encouraged women to be alluring in their profile photos, so that it would be easier to score a ride.
On Twitter, Paul Mozur of the New York Times called it a “disaster waiting to happen.”
Didi announced on Wednesday that, among other changes, Hitch’s profile system would be revamped with user-uploaded public profile photos replaced by default images and the ability to leave ratings and reviews scrapped.
In addition, Hitch will be limited for the time being to daytime hours (stopping between 10pm and 6am) until a full nighttime safety review can be completed.
Didi also said that its drivers would now have to sign in via selfie prior to each Hitch trip. Previously, this was only required at the start of each shift.
The company admitted last week that Li’s murderer was not actually a registered Hitch driver, but his father was. Somehow, Didi’s facial recognition system had failed to stop the man from logging in on his father’s account— which already had one sexual harassment complaint that was not followed up on.
Didi was met with similar calls to raise its security standards back in May 2016 after a drivermurdereda 24-year-old woman in Shenzhen. The company responded at the time by increasing safety precautions, including theadding of a passenger SOS button onto its app, which will now be made more prominent in this latest round of changes.
It remains to be seen whether these changes will be enough to reassure the public. Along with the two murders, there have been a number of shocking stories over the years of Didi drivers harassing and exposing themselves to female passengers.