Didi said it had been piloting its ride-hailing service in Geelong, a city southwest of Melbourne, last month. It said the Melbourne service would include “rigorous” driver vetting and safety features including a round-the-clock emergency support line and location sharing.
It’s latest expansion comes as concerns rise over the safety of Didi’s platform after a female passenger was murdered after using the company’s ride-sharing service, Didi Hitch, earlier this year. The woman, a 21-year-old flight attendant, was killed in Zhengzhou, the capital of China’s Henan province, allegedly by the son of a driver registered with the company. According to Didi, the man driving the vehicle was not detected by the app’s night mode facial recognition technology due to a technical fault.
Didi has moved to revamp its service following the incident. It initially suspended rides on the Didi Hitch platform for a week, and then reintroduced it with a 10 p.m. curfew. On Wednesday, the company said it would extend hours for the Didi Hitch service from 5 a.m. to midnight, but with the condition that drivers can only pick up passengers of the same sex between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. and between 10 p.m. and 12 a.m.
The firm, last valued at $50 billion after a $5.5 billion funding round in April 2017, has reportedly held talks about an initial public offering that would lift its valuation to between $70 billion and $80 billion.