The icon for Didi Chuxing application, left, is displayed on a smartphone screen (Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg)

Didi Gets Rare Rebuke After A Second Carpooling Passenger Dies

(Bloomberg) -- China’s ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing is drawing criticism from state media for its safety practices after a second female customer of its carpooling service was allegedly killed by a driver.

Didi halted the Hitch service to re-assess its business model and remove two senior executives. A driver suspected of killing a passenger in the eastern city of Wenzhou has been detained, according to state media.

The revamp comes just a few months after Didi shook up Hitch in the wake of a female customer’s death in May. After that incident in Zhengzhou, it removed a controversial feature that allowed drivers and passengers to rate each other’s appearance and also stepped up driver scrutiny. Public criticism has been rare and Didi has enjoyed a meteoric rise to become the most valuable startup in the country, with backing from giants of the technology world, including Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., Tencent Holdings Ltd. and SoftBank Group Corp.

The People’s Daily called on regulators to step up oversight and controls over new technology services. On Monday the National Development and Reform Commission said it will crack down on “dishonest” behavior in the transport sector.

“The internet has spawned tech innovation and promoted economic growth but this doesn’t mean the mindset of pursing capital can come above the public interest,” the newspaper said in a commentary piece. As new business models grow rapidly “companies should assume matching responsibilities to society and the regulators must create and improve on the necessary management and control mechanisms.”

Hitch, which has handled 1 billion trips in the past three years, is just one of the transport services offered by Didi. The company has a valuation of $56 billion according to CB Insights and offers another carpooling service as well as taxi hailing, designated drivers, minibuses and luxury cars.

Didi apologized for the latest incident and removed Huang Jieli as Hitch’s general manager and Huang Jinhong as vice president for customer services. It said the suspension was “because of our disappointing mistakes.”

“Growth of our service scale puts our safety management mechanisms under huge pressure, especially in terms of identifying potential risks, designing effective and efficient processes, and rapid response,” Didi said in a statement on Sunday. “We take to our heart all criticisms from the public and the relevant authorities.”

China’s ministries of transport and public security said they met with Didi representatives on Sunday with the government ordering the firm to immediately rectify Hitch, protect the safety and rights of passengers, and publish the details of any progress it makes. Didi agreed to create a compliance plan and submit it to the government before Sept. 1, and to add more customer service personnel.

The company said the suspect in the second alleged killing provided full and authentic documentation, and had no criminal record. He passed a facial-recognition test before starting work for the day, Didi said.

Users of carpooling or similar services should send information including the car’s license plate number and the driver’s name to relatives, the Wenzhou Public Security Bureau said in a statement on its WeChat account.

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: David Ramli in Beijing at dramli1@bloomberg.net

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With assistance from Editorial Board