Didi blames 'ignorance and pride' for carpool murder

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
This is the latest instance of violence against Didi passengers

Chinese ride-sharing giant Didi Chuxing has issued a public apology, blaming "ignorance and pride" for safety lapses that led to the rape and murder of a female passenger.

Executives said they would stop using growth to measure the firm's success and prioritise safety instead.

The move follows Didi's decision to suspend its carpool service, Hitch, amid outrage over the incident.

It was the second killing of a Hitch passenger in three months.

On Tuesday, the company apologised to the family of the victim and said the incident had prompted a reckoning within the firm.

"Our ignorance and pride led to irreversible pain and loss," Didi founder Cheng Wei and President Jean Liu said in an emailed statement.

"We see clearly this is because our vanity overtook our original belief. We raced non-stop, riding on the force of breathless expansion and capital, through these few years; but this has no meaning in such a tragic loss of life."

On Saturday, a 27-year-old driver was arrested and later confessed to the murder of the 20-year-old passenger.

While the driver did not have a criminal record, a previous passenger had filed a complaint against him, according to Didi.

'Try our utmost'

Since the incident, China's transport ministry has pressed Didi for changes, such as better driver vetting and education.

Local regulators have also reportedly met with the company.

On Tuesday, Didi said it would create a system for passengers to call police and improve safety features, such as a function that allows riders to share itineraries.

It also said it would re-evaluate the business model for Hitch.

"We might not be able to eradicate 100% the ill deeds carried out by criminals who might seek to abuse this platform, but we will try our upmost to protect passengers and drivers and continue to drive down crime rate in this industry," the statement said.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Didi Chuxing is the clear market leader in China

Founded in 2012, Didi had grown to handle about 25 million rides a day by the start of 2018, when it claimed more than 450 million users and about 21 million drivers.

The firm, which is backed by major investors such as Softbank, has also been pushing to enter new markets, including Mexico and Japan.

It is not the only ride-hailing service to face a backlash over its safety controls.

Uber, which is also backed by Softbank and has a stake in Didi's China business, has grappled with similar issues in the US and India, prompting calls for tighter regulation.

In the UK, Uber promised to report crimes directly to police in an effort to improve safety.