Ride-hailing giant Didi has resumed limited nighttime operations of its carpooling service Hitch in some cities across China, while implementing stricter identity checks for drivers and passengers.

Why it matters: Didi suspended Hitch indefinitely in 2018 following two separate incidents in which drivers on the platform raped and murdered their female passengers.

  • The murders sparked public outrage, prompting regulators to launch an industry-wide crackdown aimed at improving safety in the ride-hailing sector.
  • Didi relaunched the service in November, though passengers could only hail rides between 5 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Details: Passengers in cities including Beijing, Shanghai, and Hangzhou will now be able to use Hitch until 11 p.m., Didi said in a post on microblogging platform Weibo on Friday.

  • The late-night service comes with heightened safety measures, including more frequent identity checks, improved ability to detect route abnormalities, and more stringent trip recording requirements for drivers.
  • Only passengers and drivers who have verified their identities on the platform, have not received any safety complaints in the past year, and have taken Didi’s nighttime safety exam will be permitted to use the late-night service, a Didi spokesperson told TechNode on Monday. For passengers, the exam takes the form of an online questionnaire.
  • In November, the company relaunched Hitch in seven cities across China, including Beijing, eastern China’s Nantong and Changzhou, and the northern cities of Harbin and Taiyuan, among others.
  • The reinstated service didn’t come without controversy. The service only allowed women to travel until 8 p.m., while for men the service extended to 11 p.m. Didi standardized the 8 p.m. cutoff for everyone following complaints that the gender-based hours were unfair.
  • Hitch still appears to only be available for transport within urban areas. When requesting rides between cities in Didi’s app, TechNode found that the system said intercity trips are not currently available.

Context: China’s ride-hailing industry has faced compounding issues over the past two years. Apart from safety concerns, the Covid-19 outbreak as resulted in flagging demand since the beginning of the year.

  • Didi removed more than 300,000 unqualified drivers from its platforms following the government crackdown on the industry in the wake of the murders.
  • The company reportedly lost RMB 10.9 billion in 2018 as a result, as it sought to meet regulator demands and recruit drivers that met government requirements.

Chris Udemans

Christopher Udemans is a Shanghai-based data and graphics reporter. He covers Chinese artificial intelligence, mobility, and cybersecurity. You can contact him at chrisudemans [at] technode [dot] com.