Didi Chuxing the world's largest ride-hail company by number of trips, has suspended its carpooling service after one of its drivers was found to have raped and murdered a female passenger. A company statement said the incident showed there were deficiencies in its processes and so it would suspend its 'Hitch' system for re-evaluation.
Police say the woman passenger got into the taxi in the eastern city of Wenzhou at 13:00 local time on Friday. An hour later she messaged a friend for help before losing contact.
The 27-year-old driver, named only as Zhong, was detained early on Saturday morning and confessed to raping and murdering his passenger, police say.
The body of the victim has been recovered and an investigation is ongoing. Didi Chuxing said Zhong had had no previous criminal record but it admitted there had been a previous complaint made against the driver.
Hitch is a modern take on hitchhiking that lets a passenger ride for free with a driver headed in their direction. Passengers are encouraged to leave a tip to cover petrol, but the idea is to make each car ride more efficient. Didi doesn’t monetize the service, but it is a strategic way to attract passengers and drivers who may use other services that the firm does draw revenue from.
Didi claims Hitch has handled over a billion trips in the past three years, but there are obviously are major safety issues. A similar incident was reported earlier this year in a different part of China, when a 21-year-old flight attendant was murdered after using Didi’s service in Zhengzhou.
Didi confirmed that it has fired two executives following the murder: the general manager for Hitch and the company’s vice president of customer services. The company also said it will launch a “co-supervisory process of our operations” which it invited members of the public and experts to take part in.
Didi has a virtual monopoly on ride-hailing services in China since it acquired and integrated Uber’s China business in 2016, but this year it has seen increased competition from local businesses.