Woman killed by Didi taxi driver, triggers concern on car-hailing services

Updated: 05 May 2016
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Read more on Shenzhen murder   Didi taxi murder  
The alleged murder of a young woman by a Didi taxi driver on Monday evening triggered public concern over the safety and supervision of online car-hailing services.
The Transport Commission of Shenzhen on Wednesday told China Daily it will release detailed supervision measures after the Ministry of Transportation launches the regulation for online car-hailing services later this month.
A private car is seized by transport authorities in February because its driver offered rides for payment and failed to provide the required licenses in Beijing.[Guo Qian/For China Daily]
Local police said that the 24-year-old woman was murdered by a Didi driver in Shenzhen on May 2.
The woman, surnamed Zhong, was an English teacher at a primary school in Shajing, Baoan district. She hailed a Didi taxi from her home near the Shenzhen Hi-tech Industrial Park to go back to school on Monday evening.
Shenzhen police on Tuesday evening announced that the driver, surnamed Pan, was arrested and Zhong's body had been found.
Pan, 24, admitted picking up Zhong at about 9 pm and taking her to a remote road, where he forced Zhong to hand over valuables with a knife and then murdered her.
Didi also disclosed the suspect did not have a criminal record and was reviewed by his previous 18 passengers as "a qualified driver with no record of complaints".
The killing made a splash on local media and triggered calls for more attention to be paid to the safety of online car-hailing services.
Tang Yi, a Didi driver in Shenzhen, said the company told drivers to ensure that their information is complete.
To register at Didi, the driver needs to fill in his/her name, ID, mobile phone number, city, license plate number and car brand online.
But Tang said drivers can start to take passengers without the information being double checked.
He added that some drivers even use photo editing software to change the car license and suggested Didi set up an offline verification system. Some drivers use one car to register with two different, even fictitious, license plate numbers, so that they can receive more orders.
Last July, a driver who registered on Didi with car information he found online raped a female passenger in Beijing. The driver had a criminal record of patronizing prostitutes.
In March, the Shenzhen transportation bureau had a meeting with major service providers in the city and asked them to provide driver information, but Zhai Yuhui from the bureau said only partial information was handed in.
"After checking this information with the police database, we can ensure the personal and car information registered on these platforms is authentic, but whether they are hired is not our decision," Zhai said. He added that these companies also need to make sure drivers use the registered car and license plate to take passengers.
Didi states it checks driver registration information with the criminal record database approved by law enforcement agencies and driving record data from the Department of Vehicle Administration.
The company said it will launch an in-app 110 police number to further enhance safety protection.
What they say
I take online-hailed rides between home and the office on a daily basis with little worry because the drivers are usually the same folks. We've gotten to know each other. But I become more cautious when I take a ride out of town or when it's late at night. I'll go with someone else. So far, I haven't encountered any trouble taking these rides, but I believe the company should require all drivers offering such rides to install real-time surveillance cameras.
Wang Xiaoqing, 27, sales assistant at Lenovo in Beijing
I've taken several online-hailed rides, usually when it was difficult to hire a taxi. Most of the trips were not so pleasant. Some drivers cancel rides at the last minute, other drivers take unusual routes. Then can be rude, too. I alert my friends of my location immediately or get off halfway for safety.
Sun Zeyu, 18, freshman at the College of Journalism and Communication, Jilin University
I took a online-hailed ride to Beijing to attend the annual Strawberry Music Festival last week. I kept my friends updated about my ride from time to time on WeChat or over the phone. There has been bad news about taking these rides, which really made me worried.
Chai Li, 24, English teacher from Tianjin
I have been using the online-hailing app and find it very convenient, even when I'm on a business trip in a strange city. As a female passenger, I normally don't take the front seat and would take notes of the car's plate and the driver's telephone number in case I have any complaints. So far, I haven't had any. The Shenzhen incident, sad as it is, doesn't have to cancel all the convenience such an app-enabled service has brought. Of course, we hope Didi puts forward stricter enforcement of supervision.
Shi Ruili, media worker in her 30s from Haikou, Hainan province
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Comments Area ( Total Comments: 1 )
ppan8888 Commented on 05 Jul 2016
I have never trusted Uber, Didi or any of the various "black" or illegal taxi services. I think the local governments should clean up their acts and make sure there are adequate number of licensed taxis on the road with qualified and closely supervised licensed drivers on the steering wheel, and ban all of the newfangled smartphone app driven "private cars" from masquerading as taxis. If these people want to become taxi drivers they should go through the same licensing, training, testing and oversignt process before being allowed to drive official taxis and pick up passengers and driving them to their destinations with courtesy and a smile on their faces.