China’s largest ride-hailing platform Didi Chuxing said on Wednesday in a press release that it will begin a trial relaunch of Hitch, its P2P ride-sharing service, in seven major Chinese cities—including Harbin, Taiyuan, Shijiazhuang, Changzhou, Shenyang, Beijing, and Nantong. The service will resume in these locations at the end of November.
The trial run will allow trips under 50 kilometers in metro areas between 5:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. for women, and 5:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m. for men, said Didi.
The new rule quickly sparked discussions among women as some viewed it as discriminatory.
Liu Qing, president of Didi Chuxing, said on the evening of Wednesday on her personal Weibo account that the updated Hitch is unfriendly to women in terms of functionality, but that restrictions are in place for the sake of safety. She also welcomed feedback from the platform’s users.
Didi Hitch was created in 2015 as a commuter ride-sharing service for China’s middle class, but was suspended in August 2018 after two women were raped and murdered while using the platform.
Didi said that Hitch has undergone a comprehensive safety review and product revamp, adding that the redesigned service now features improved safety features and rating mechanisms, as well as more rigorous verification for drivers and passengers.
Didi is also piloting a women’s safety program with Hitch, incorporating enhanced risk analysis, alerts, and intervention models that identify high-risk scenarios and trip anomalies to enable effective intervention.
However, it remains to be seen whether these measures will manage to prevent attacks or criminal activity that may take place.
When Didi’s Hitch was on hiatus, Ant Financial-backed Hello Chuxing launched its own hitchhiking business in more than 300 cities in China in February.
It wasn’t immune to the same problem. A woman using Hello Chuxing’s hitchhiking service was robbed by a driver during a ride in October.
The woman said the driver stopped the car, left his seat, and held a cleaver to her throat. She was rescued, but suffered wounds to her face and was hospitalized.
The report was updated on Thursday to include Didi president Liu Qing’s response to the discussions around the new Hitch.