Ride-hailing platform Didi Chuxing said on Monday it has worked with a state-backed industry group to create China’s first nationwide guidelines for ride-hailing platforms dealing to prevent transmission of Covid-19 during rides. The guidelines are closely based on measures Didi has already adopted, promoting a Didi model for safe ride-hailing that includes AI-based mask checks using open source software published by Didi.

Why it matters: The standards, coming at a time when China has brought outbreaks under control, could provide guidance to other platforms and countries now facing the deadly coronavirus outbreak.

  • Hit hard by a nationwide halt due to the epidemic, Didi has introduced a series measures in an effort to return to business as usual, including installing plastic barriers in drivers’ cars, temperature checks, and vehicle disinfection.

Details: Didi, China’s biggest ride-hailing platform, plans to issue recommendations for ride hailing drivers and passengers to avoid and contain the pandemic, working with China Urban Public Transport Association (CUPTA) later this month, the company said in a post on its official WeChat account Monday (in Chinese).

  • The guidelines suggest ride-hailing platforms adopt a variety of strict measures, including requiring masks for both riders and drivers, daily temperature checks for drivers, and regular disinfection and ventilation for vehicles.
  • Didi drivers are now being checked for masks multiple times before and during working hours, while being exempted from penalties for cancelling rides if passengers refuse to wear masks.
  • The company recently open-sourced an AI platform to detect mask wearing for free use.
  • Installing of plastic sheets in vehicles is also recommended to help prevent the virus spreading through the air. In late February, Didi announced a RMB 100 million ($14.3 million) initiative to install barriers in ride-sharing cars across more than 200 domestic cities.
  • Founded by a former minister of construction in early 1990s, CUPTA is an industry group for public transport services currently supervised by a working committee of the central government, according to its website.

Context: The global ride-hailing market is taking a hit from the coronavirus outbreak.

  • Didi’s daily active user base shrank by more than half in February from a month earlier after China took serious containment and social distancing measures to slow the spread of virus, according to figures from Chinese research firm Aurora Mobile.
  • Uber admitted for the first time earlier this month that the pandemic could result in a material decline in its number of platform users and disruption in its operations outside the US, according to an SEC filing.
  • The US ride-hailing giant this week expanded its sick pay policy to all driver accounts suspended for services caused by public health measures against the outbreak, while drivers have asked to halt pooled rides to further ensure their safety, reported The Verge.

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