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Didi Chuxing

Grab suspends late night ride-hitching service to improve user experience and safety

Ride-hailing companies around the world are reviewing safety measures after murders in China

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 September, 2018, 6:49pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 September, 2018, 11:01pm

Singapore-based ride-hailing company Grab will suspend late-night bookings of its carpooling service from October to improve user experience and safety, just a day after the firm was slapped with a S$6.4 million (US$4.7 million) fine by the country’s antitrust watchdog and weeks after Chinese firm Didi Chuxing suspended a similar service following two murder cases in China.

Grab, co-founded by chief executive Anthony Tan, will stop its carpooling service between 1am and 5am from October 1 onwards to “improve the experience and safety of its community of drivers and riders”.

Grab’s GrabHitch service is operated by private-car owners and is marketed as a more “social” service, where passengers can “expand [their] social network” and “make new friends”. With GrabHitch, the fare is split between several commuters who are all headed in the same direction.

Grab’s suspension of late-night services for its ride-hitching services come as ride-hailing companies around the world take a closer look at safety measures for its users. In China, Didi Chuxing came under scrutiny in August after two passengers were murdered while using its ride-hitching service within three months. One of the incidents involved an unregistered Didi driver.

A Grab spokeswoman said that the service was suspended as the company had received “negative anecdotal feedback from our driver-partners”, such as drunk and belligerent passengers, and said that the service was not halted due to any specific incident.

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In June, Grab also halted its late-night GrabShare service, an on-demand carpooling service that allows commuters to share a ride to different destinations that are close by to each other, because of “unruly passengers”, the company said.

Apart from GrabHitch and GrabShare, all other services will operate as usual.

On Monday, Grab was fined S$6.4 million after Singapore’s competition watchdog deemed that its merger with Uber in March was anti-competitive. Uber was also fined S$6.6 million. Grab had acquired Uber’s Southeast Asian operations for an undisclosed sum and in return gave Uber a 27.5 per cent stake in the Singapore-based firm.

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Grab is currently Southeast Asia’s most valuable tech start-up, with Didi, Uber Technologies and Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp among its major stakeholders.

Didi’s founder Cheng Wei and president Jean Liu issued a written apology after the most recent murder in China, blaming the company’s “breathless expansion” and pursuit of scale as reasons that led to security lapses in the service.

It also suspended its ride-hitching service and halted late-night services for a week, as it strengthened safety measures including a panic button within the app that links directly to the police. The company said it will also trial in-trip audio recording and intensify background checks of drivers.