China's Didi plans to relaunch Hitch service with new safety features

FILE PHOTO: A man is seen in front of a Didi sign before a promotional event of its Hitch service for the Spring festival travel rush, in Beijing, China January 24, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo

BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing said on Thursday it was proposing to relaunch its Hitch carpooling service with added safety features, almost a year after suspending the service following the murder of a female passenger by her Didi driver.

The case had badly dented Didi’s image at a time when it has been trying to expand overseas to compete with foreign rivals such as Uber and drove the company to pledge that it would prioritize safety over growth going forward.

Didi has no definite timetable yet for the relaunch of Hitch but it is putting forward a proposal for public consultation, the company said in a statement.

The service will minimize its display of personal information, offer an in-app pop-up which allows drivers and passengers double check the identity of people they were sharing a car with, Didi said.

Didi also plans to form a partnership with Chinese insurers to provide up to 1.2 million yuan ($174,502) in accident insurance and roll out a separate program for female passengers and drivers, comprising features such as algorithms that can detect things such as abnormal route changes.

Hitch, which allowed users to hail a car through their smartphone and share a ride with someone else headed in the same direction, was advertised by Didi as a new way to meet people such as romantic encounters before it was suspended last year.

Reporting by Brenda Goh and Yilei Sun; editing by Gopakumar Warrier