Didi revamps structure amid backlash over safety lapses
- The ride-hailing giant has been criticised over murders of two of its passengers
Didi Chuxing, China’s largest ride-hailing platform, on Wednesday unveiled a series of organisational restructures as part of efforts to restore public and regulatory trust, following murders of two of its users.
According to a statement, the Beijing-based company will be adding two senior positions, a chief safety officer and a chief security officer, to oversee its emergency preparedness and management. They will report, respectively, to the company’s chief executive officers Cheng Wei and chief technology officer Bob Zhang, according to the statement. Zhang, who is also Didi’s co-founder, will head its taxi service.
“The new set-up will strengthen our safety and efficiency performances in the interest of the healthy and sustainable development of Didi as well as the broader industry,” the statement read.
In the announcement, the company also said that it will merge some of its ride-hailing divisions such as Didi Express and high-end Premier, into a single business unit in which it would invest to improve compliance and services standards. It said it would similarly move its bike rental, designated driver and public transport units into a single entity.
The reorganisation comes as the ride-hailing behemoth once acclaimed for cutting air pollution, creating jobs and driving foreign firm Uber, out of the country, was publicly censured after two young female passengers were allegedly raped and killed by their Didi drivers this year.
In May, a 21-year-old, was raped and killed in Zhengzhou, in central China, allegedly by an unregistered Didi driver. Her body was later found in a river. Three months later, police in Yueqing city, in China’s eastern Zhejiang province, in August found the body of a 20-year-old female surnamed Zhao, and arrested a Didi driver who confessed to her rape and murder.
A review of public court records by the South China Morning Post showed at least a dozen previous sexual assault convictions involving Didi drivers and their passengers.
“We have found that ride-hailing platforms, including Didi, have many issues and risks associated with operations management, product compliance, emergency mechanisms, information protection and public security,” Wu Chungeng, a spokesman for the Ministry of Transport, said in September.
Wu added that safety risks behind Hitch carpooling – a service that pairs private car owners with passengers heading in the same direction – were “huge” due to weak emergency mechanisms currently in place.
Last month, authorities demanded Didi suspend its hitch service until adequate safety measures were installed. It also said that the company and its executives could expect a fine.
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