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A driver in Mexico using the Didi app, where the company launched its service in April for the first time outside of China. (Picture: Reuters)

Didi’s safety overhaul met with skepticism from users

Netizens say the ride-hailing giant is trying to solve the wrong problem

Didi Chuxing
This article originally appeared on ABACUS

The death of two passengers in three months has put China’s biggest ride-hailing service under increasing scrutiny. But people aren’t impressed by what it’s doing to improve safety.

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Yesterday, Didi announced that drivers will have to take a security knowledge test in the app before they take orders every day for the next ten days. The test asks them about punishments for violating regulations, how to use the emergency button to call the police, and how to “politely and friendly” communicate with passengers.
The announcement was met with a wave of skepticism from users, with most of them saying that Didi is trying to solve the wrong problem. “The tragedy happened because of Didi customer service’s incompetence, and this is missing the point,” reads one top comment on Weibo.
The comment is referring to the latest case, where it reportedly took Didi customer service 92 minutes to give police access to the driver’s information -- after a passenger using Didi’s carpool service was killed.
A driver in Mexico using the Didi app, where the company launched its service in April for the first time outside of China. (Picture: Reuters)
Last week, after authorities sent an inspection team to the company, Didi said that it would completely halt all late-night operations (between 11pm to 5am) including carpooling, private car and taxi hailing services for a week.
But the move has caused new commuting problems across China because of how dominant Didi is in the ride-hailing market. Users are finding it hard to book a ride, unlicensed taxis are rampant, and prices have surged on other smaller ride-hailing platforms.

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But it appears that the complete halt might not be a top-down order from authorities, according to state broadcaster CCTV, who pointed out that the country’s law requires ride-hailing companies who want to temporarily halt or terminate their services to notify the public and local authorities 30 days in advance -- but Didi only gave it 4 days.

The state broadcaster even wondered aloud whether the company has a hidden agenda behind the sudden halt, attempting to manipulate public opinion by making people realize how indispensable it is.

Didi didn’t publicly respond to the theory, but the halt could be because late-night services were assessed to have a higher risk, the South China Morning Post reports.
Since last week, Didi has also started testing in-car audio recording for every ride. The recordings will be automatically deleted from Didi’s servers after seven days if no complaint is filed about the ride.
While some people say that they don’t have problems with being recorded because taxis are public spaces, a lot people also have privacy concerns about Didi having their voice recordings.
“This is like swatting a fly with nuclear weapon,” says Michael Anti, a Chinese journalist and political blogger.

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