China's Didi imposes strict driver requirements for late-night rides

© Reuters. Logo of Didi Chuxing is seen at its headquarters building in Beijing© Reuters. Logo of Didi Chuxing is seen at its headquarters building in Beijing

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Chinese ride-hailing firm Didi Chuxing Technology Co Ltd said on Friday that it had implemented stricter requirements for drivers who want to pick up passengers late at night and tripled the number of customer service staff responsible for safety.

These measures come as the firm faces increasing pressure from the government and public to improve the safety of its platform after a 20-year-old passenger was murdered by her Didi driver last month in the second such incident since May.

Earlier this month, the firm had said it would temporarily suspend some late-night services over Sept. 8-15 as it prepared to take the new safety steps.

Didi will resume late-night services but drivers of express and premier cars who want to pick up passengers between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. local time will need to have a service record of more than six months and over 1,000 safe trips, the firm said in a statement on its official WeChat account.

The company, which began trial audio recording of trips from Sept. 8, said it had since recorded audio for almost 80 percent of all rides, adding that the recordings will be automatically deleted after a week in the absence of any dispute.

Also, since Sept. 4, almost 7 million new passengers have set up emergency contacts who will be immediately notified if the rider clicks the app’s one-tap police assistance function, Didi said in the statement.

It, however, said it was still unable to automatically upload information from that one-tap button to Chinese police and was actively seeking solutions.

Didi has tripled the number of staff in its critical response safety team between Sept. 4-14, as part of a pledge to form an in-house professional customer service team of 8,000 people by the end of this year.

Didi and other ride-hailing firms are currently under heavy scrutiny from the Chinese government, which has pledged to scrub the industry of vehicles and drivers that fail to meet safety standards by the end of 2018.

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