Can real names make China's ride hailing services safer?
China’s Uber rival Didi Chuxing explores requiring passengers to sign up with national ID
In some places around the world, bad Uber ratings can get a rider banned from the service. But what if that customer later signs up for another account using a new phone number? Well, Didi Chuxing thinks it has a solution.
The Chinese ride-hailing giant is currently running an online poll about the idea: Should passengers be required to register with their real names and national ID?
(Abacus is a unit of the South China Morning Post, which is owned by Alibaba -- a backer of Didi Chuxing.)
The question didn’t come out of nowhere. The company has been experimenting with various ways to soothe safety concerns, following two murders last year. At least two female riders on its Hitch service (a carpooling function similar to Uber Pool and Lyft’s Share Rides) were raped and killed.
One measure allows customers and drivers to blacklist each other, so they won’t be matched again in the next 12 months.
It looks like many of those who responded to the poll support introducing real name registration.
“There can be bad people among drivers, as there can be good people among passengers. That’s why both sides should be subject to strict requirements. Real name registration is necessary,” wrote the top-voted comment.
But others are expressing concerns about personal privacy too.
“It’s needed, but how do you protect personal information?” asked one comment.
Didi says its suggestion is based on real cases. In one, a woman was verbally harassed by another Hitch passenger. The driver intervened, and the victim later complained to Didi. The harasser’s account was banned, but Didi says there was nothing it could do if the person later registers with another phone number.
In another case, Didi says a customer discovered that her phone number has been registered by someone else, leaving her account with a huge collection of unpaid bills.
While the use of real name registration could potentially prevent these scenarios, it’s also hard to see it being replicated in the West. Both Uber and Lyft require nothing more than a phone number or an email address to sign up.
And real name registration isn’t always a fail-proof method. When Tencent introduced police checks to its hit game Honor of Kings, some Chinese gamers say they were “borrowing” other people’s national ID because their original accounts were stolen.
Others have explored different ways to counter naughty passengers. Last year, Uber applied for a patent for an AI that aims to identify drunken riders before they get on a car. The algorithm will track things like a passenger’s walking speed or the number of typos they entered.