Didi will spend another RMB 2 billion ($300 million) on safety improvements this year including driver management and customer service, as it continues to go “all-in” on keeping users safe.

The company “works day and night” to be an open and transparent platform and welcomes public scrutiny, President Jean Liu said at Didi’s first media day since the murders of two users of its carpooling service Hitch last year.

The ride-hailing giant has removed more than 306,000 unqualified and fraudulent drivers from its platform since the incidents and set up a special safety team of more than 2,500 workers. It has also brought in 9,000 customer service staff to handle 300,000 daily calls on average.

In addition, 99% of cars are now equipped with audio recording capabilities and one out of five are monitored with onboard cameras following a trial project. The company plans to increase the coverage to over half by the year-end, and will pay the majority of costs incurred, according to Vice-president Lai Chunbo. The encrypted recordings, only accessible to Didi’s safety team and law enforcement, are deleted with seven days of each fare.

Didi invested heavily following the incidents amid public outcry and intense government scrutiny, making a monumental shift in focus from growth to compliance. The company reportedly suffered a loss of RMB 10.9 billion for last year, amid continued driver subsidies and a clampdown on non-compliant drivers.

China’s ride-hailing landscape has changed greatly over the past year, with dozens of new players, including tech companies and automakers, piling in to get a piece of the potentially lucrative market. Life service platform Meituan began offering ride-hailing in late 2017, followed by Ant Financial-backed Hellobike a year later. Tencent partnered with GAC Group to launch Ontime in late June.

Didi has moved quickly to compete with rivals and introduced third-party ride-sharing services in May. Senior vice-president Fu Qiang said talks with local regulators have also taken place as part of efforts to tackle a driver shortage, as industry regulations are “fairly diverse” across different areas.

Fu admitted that investment in safety will affect business performance in the short-term, but maintained that the drive benefits the company’s long-term development. “More secure services are now being offered and therefore passengers are more content with their trips,” (our translation) he added.

Jean Liu would not reveal a timeframe with regards to when suspended carpooling service Hitch would come back online, but confirmed that it would take onboard public opinion to help revamp the product.

This article was corrected to reflect that Didi will invest RMB 2 billion in safety this year, not next year.

Jill Shen is Shanghai-based technology reporter. She covers Chinese mobility, autonomous vehicles, and electric cars. Connect with her via e-mail: jill.shen@technode.com or Twitter: @yushan_shen

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