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Didi Chuxing adds new safety features, including a passenger SOS button

TechCrunch TechCrunch 7/07/2016 Jon Russell

Didi Chuxing, the taxi booking app that is beating Uber in China, has added a number of safety features to its service including an SOS button for its 300 million registered users.

The company, which was formed by a merger between China’s top two taxi apps last year and recently closed a $7.3 billion funding round, announced today that it has implemented changes to “enhance user safety and protection” of passengers across the 400 cities that it serves in China.

Most notable is perhaps the SOS button, which, with one click, sends an alert to contacts that are reset by the passenger. Didi said also that, in the event that the button is activated, it has “trained Didi SOS Taskforce members” who can check in on the passenger in real-time, since their device automatically begins recording audio once they request help.

Uber added a similar panic button last year, initially in India following a passenger rape, in a rollout that also include real-time passenger location tracking. That’s another feature that Didi initiated today. Initially launched in beta in May, now all Didi passengers can share their location, estimated time of arrival, the vehicle license number and other information to friends via both the Didi app and popular chat services WeChat and QQ. Didi said that overseas users — who make use of its integration with Lyft in the U.S. and soon other allies in Asia — can access the feature while outside of China.

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Didi also introduced its number masking feature across the whole of China, to help passengers retain their privacy while communicating with drivers, and it is rolling out “biometric driver authentication” to verify its drivers. That latter feature is similar to another that Uber uses currently, too. Uber China, the U.S. firm’s dedicated company in the country, introduced ‘selfie authentication’ to cut down on driver fraud back in April of this year.

Finally, also related to fraud and driver management, Didi announced a tie-in with local and national law agencies around background checks and driver screening. The company already conducts these checks but it (boldly) proclaimed that it is “the only ride-hailing platform in the industry to cooperate with relevant state departments in [China].” Take that Uber! Considering that many of these new features are already visible in Uber, we guess Didi needed to puff its chest out about something for this press announcement.

But, on a serious note, more safety features are only a good thing as taxi-on-demand and ride-sharing services continue to grow in popularity among consumers in China, the U.S. and the rest of the world.

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