The incarnation of ride-hailing businesses, the likes of Didi Chuxing, Grab and Uber, is supposed to change people’s daily lives. And they did in many ways. Including brought a sad and brutal end to a 21-year-old girl’s life.
The girl, a flight attendant from China’s Shandong province, hailed a Didi vehicle in the late night of May 5, 2018 on her way to the railway station in Zhengzhou city, the capital city of Henan province.
She booked a 1AM home-bound train for an extended family’s wedding. She was never able to make it to the wedding, or to her home.
According to local media, the girl, surnamed Li, messaged her colleague on WeChat, a messaging app, after she got into the Didi vehicle that she encountered a pervert who told her she’s pretty and wanted to kiss her. “It’s a good thing I’m not seated in the front seat,” she texted her colleague.
The pervert she referred to was the ride-sharing driver she hailed on Didi, the largest Chinese ride-hailing business with a monopoly market position. She hailed a Didi Hitch (滴滴顺风车), the ride-sharing service falls under the wing of Didi which now provides a wide range of on-demand transportation services to Chinese people.
That was Li’s last exchange with colleague and she was since went missing.
Li’s body, laying half bared with multiple stab wounds, was recovered two days later in a small hillock not too far from where she boarded the life-changing automobile.
Chinese net users flew into a rage and took it to social media to criticize Didi for lax management that puts their lives in peril. In 2017, around 450 million users across over 400 cities completed 7.43 billion rides with Didi.
In a prepared statement Didi gave us, the Beijing-based company said it was “deeply saddened and sorry about the tragedy” that “no words can express our deep remorse in face of such an enormity”. The company also admitted its responsibilities in this case is undeniable and said it would “review thoroughly all our business practices to prevent such incidents from happening again.”
Yet this might not be the first time the company promises so as just two years ago, a similar incident happened in the southern coastal city of Shenzhen when a 24-year-old teacher was robbed and murdered by her Didi driver.
The driver’s ID, license and car plate were clean and approved by the company. But he used a duplicate and forged plate on the day he committed the crime.
And it’s not just ride-hailing drivers’ changing their passengers’ lives. It’s a double-way path. There were also incidents of drunk and angered passengers took away their drivers’ life.
In its response to the public rage, Didi said that the company’s Didi Hitch service “operates a thorough driver verification process that includes reviewing a drivers’ ID card, driving license, and vehicle license.” In addition, it “works closely with law enforcement authorities to conduct background checks on drivers. Individuals with a criminal record, fugitives, drug addicts, and individuals with a health condition that prevents safe driving, are excluded from joining the DiDi platform.”
Ride-hailing has always been painted as the poster child of the so-called sharing economy. Previously, it takes some guts for both parties to enter into a stranger’s vehicle or to let someone into your vehicle especially in the middle of a pitch black night, or in Airbnb’s case, to sleep in a stranger’s house.
The rise of such ride-hailing platforms, with their proclaimed thorough background checks and technological advances, slowly instilled a false illusion into the public’s mind that they’re under a safe umbrella, being protected by the platform providers, which usually it’s not the case.
That’s why the sharing platforms should be held greater liable to safeguard the sometimes fatal illusion it percolated through the society.
After all those apologies and promises, Didi did say one thing very right when it said:
“As a platform, we have not done justice to the trust of our users. Our responsibilities in this case are undeniable. ”