Ride-hailing giant Didi has backtracked on plans to impose gender-specific operating hours when relaunching its carpooling service Hitch later this month, following public outcry blasting the company for limiting women’s freedoms.
Why it matters: Didi suspended its Hitch service indefinitely last year following two separate incidents in which drivers on the platform raped and murdered their female passengers.
- The murders sparked outrage from the public and prompted regulators to launch an industry-wide crackdown aimed at improving safety in the ride-hailing industry.
- Shortly after the incidents, China’s transport ministry lambasted Didi, saying the company had “lost control” of its drivers and vehicles.
- The company has subsequently launched and upgraded a series of safety features and introduced more stringent background checks for its drivers.
Details: Didi on Wednesday announced that it would relaunch Hitch on a trial basis later this month, more than a year after suspending the service.
- However, while men would be able to use the service between 5 a.m. and 11 p.m., women would not be permitted to hail Hitch rides after 8 p.m.
- The move prompted widespread pushback on social media, with female users calling the practice unfair.
- Responding to the criticism, Jean Liu, Didi’s president, said in a post on microblogging platform Weibo on Wednesday that the current rules for Hitch are “not useful to women,” but added that the trial will function as a safety test.
- A day later, Didi said in a statement that it would standardize operating hours from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. for all users, thanking netizens for their feedback.
Context: Didi has faced scrutiny in the past for allowing sexist practices to creep into its services.
- In an early iteration of its Hitch service, drivers were able to review passengers, a feature that was often abused to include inappropriate comments about a riders’ body and looks.
- Didi has struggled with the fallout of last years’ murders, pivoting from pushing for growth to an increased focus on safety.
- The focus on safety has had a significant effect on the company, resulting in reported losses of nearly RMB 11 billion ($1.6 billion) in 2018.