Autonavi suspends carpooling service as Didi Hitch murder chills China

Image credit: AutoNavi

Mapping company AutoNavi (高德地图) has suspended its carpooling service across China following the rape and murder of a female passenger by Didi Hitch driver.

Didi’s case set its local counterparts on alert for the security risks of their carpooling services. As part of China’s ride-hailing resurgence, AutoNavi launched a carpooling option in March this year, presenting it as a public service aimed at reducing traffic. Four months later, the Alibaba-backed company rolled out a mobility aggregation platform to further tap into the sector. The hitchhiking service on Dida (嘀嗒), another popular Didi rival, operates normally now, but the company removed its social networking feature after Didi’s passenger murder case happened in May.

A 21-year-old female passenger was murdered by her driver when using Didi’s carpooling service on August 24th in the eastern city of Wenzhou. The incident sparked on an online backlash against the company over its safety problems. In response to the incident, the ride-hailing giant suspended its carpooling service and promised to address “many deficiencies” with its customer service.

But the raging public seems to have lost patience with the company as the current drama comes barely three months after a similar one in May. Didi suspended its carpooling services upon the May incident, but they soon resumed it after security enhancement. Limiting late-night rides, same-sex drivers and audio-recording every single ride are some of the solutions the tech giant proposed.

However, the effectiveness of these measures is questioned since sexual offenses by Didi drivers never ceased to catch public attention. It’s not clear how long Didi’s current suspension will last, but nothing short of sweeping improvements could win back the increasingly dubious customers. Other ride-hailing services are suffering from similar safety problems with carpooling services. They chose to suspend the service before coming up with effective solutions.