Ride-sharing firms put safety on top of the agenda

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China's ride-sharing sector is entering a new stage, with major players stepping up measures to strengthen safety mechanisms and shifting their focus from the sole pursuit of fast expansion to quality growth, experts said.

A self-driving car of Didi Chuxing is on display at an exhibition in Beijing. [Photo by Quan Yajun/for China Daily]

Yang Xinzheng, an expert at the China Academy of Transportation Science, said China has been stepping up efforts to prevent severe accidents from happening in the country's ride-hailing industry after two female passengers were killed in separate incidents involving drivers using the Didi Chuxing platform last year.

The push by companies like Didi to ensure safety is a good sign that the sector is changing from quick expansion to sustainable growth, Yang added.

The comments came after Didi, the country's largest ride-sharing platform, announced an organizational restructuring plan to boost safety and efficiency. As part of the reshuffle, it has appointed a chief information safety officer as well as a chief security officer.

The Beijing-based company said it will create a comprehensive safety management and accountability system that runs regular internal examinations across the company, and strengthen its collaboration with safety authorities on public safety coordination.

Other players including Ucar Inc and Shouqi Limousine and Chauffeur are also stepping up their efforts to improve safety measures.

Lu Zhenwang, CEO of Wanqing Consultancy in Shanghai, said having a large number of drivers on a ride-sharing platform is one of the keys to outcompete rivals and ward off competition from new entrants.

That is one of the reasons why driver verification systems did not work that well previously. The tighter the verification system, the more troublesome it will be for drivers to use ride-sharing platforms, Lu said.

But now almost all companies realize that security is the top priority for their businesses. The next question is how to achieve a balance between ensuring big transportation capacity and strengthening safety mechanisms, Lu added.

To achieve that end, Didi said it will launch widespread driver education campaigns and special funds to encourage drivers to acquire the requisite driver and vehicle certifications.

The Beijing-based company will also create a mechanism for effective operational information sharing with the national ride-hailing supervisory platform, as part of its broader push to work toward comprehensive driver and vehicle certification.

Such efforts also come amid renewed competition in China's ride-hailing market. A string of traditional automakers such as BMW AG and China's largest carmaker, SAIC Motor, are entering the sector, in the hope of opting for diversified revenue streams.

In China, on-demand mobility services, including ride-hailing, are expected to grow by 33 percent annually to $201 billion by 2025, up from about $15 billion in 2017, according to a report by Strategy&, a consulting firm under PwC.

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