Didi Chuxing said it will suspend a carpool service and has removed two executives after a second female customer in three months was allegedly killed by a driver in China.
The ride-hailing app company said in an emailed statement on Sunday that it will halt its Hitch service starting Monday and reevaluate the carpool operation’s business model. Didi has removed Huang Jieli as Hitch’s general manager and Huang Jinhong as vice president for customer services, according to the statement.
A driver in the eastern city of Wenzhou suspected of killing a female passenger on Aug. 24 has been detained, Chinese state media reported. Didi came under intense scrutiny in May, when state media reported a driver used his father’s account to pick up and kill a woman in the central city of Zhengzhou.
Didi apologized for the latest incident and said that it would upgrade its processes for handling complaints. The Hitch service, which the company said handled 1 billion trips over the past three years, was being suspended “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. “We take to our heart all criticisms from the public and the relevant authorities.”
Officials from China’s ministries of transport and public security said in a statement they met with Didi representatives on Sunday. The government said it ordered the firm to immediately rectify its Hitch service, protect the safety and rights of passengers, and publish the details of any progress it makes. Didi agreed to submit 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.
Hitch has been marketed as a social ride-sharing service, allowing drivers and passengers to label or rate each other by appearance. Such features have attracted criticism because the platform was rife with comments that marked female passengers as “goddesses” and “beauties.”
Didi said in May it was overhauling safety measures across its business after the first killing. One of the changes would involve the redesign of its emergency help button to display it more prominently on the app interface, it 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.