Tech

State-backed ride-hailer Shouqi faces backlash over safety concerns

Chinese ride-hailing company Shouqi is under fire for safety issues after a woman in Hangzhou claimed she injured herself by felling out of a moving car while attempting to escape a dangerous situation.

On June 12, a passenger surnamed Gao jumped or fell out of a moving taxi during a ride provided by Shouqi Limousine & Chauffeur (Shouqi Yueche) in the eastern city of Hangzhou.

Gao said she attempted to escape because she was afraid her driver was going to attack her. She suffered a bone fracture and multiple scrapes from the incident, according to her statement.

Gao and Shouqi have since released contradictory statements online regarding the incident, prompting wide debate online over what happened during the ride.

Why it matters: The incident raises questions about the state-backed luxury ride-hailing company’s ability to provide a safe, premium ride.

Shouqi has presented itself as a safer, upmarket alternative to competitors like Didi, making its name by providing rides to high-level officials, such as employees of the State Secrets Protection Administration in Beijing.

Shouqi’s statement: The ride-hailing company released a Weibo statement on Saturday (in Chinese), saying the incident was due to a “miscommunication.”

Shouqi apologized for the incident and said Gao jumped out due to misunderstanding with the driver, promising to cover Gao’s medical expenses. Shouqi said the driver called the police after Gao jumped out. According to Shouqi’s account, police told the company that the incident was caused by poor communication between Gao and the driver, which led to Gao getting out of the car. The police have not issued a public statement.Shouqi added that the recording of the ride showed no arguments and minimal interaction between Gao and the driver.A Shouqi staff who asked not to be named told TechNode that the company is in the process of addressing the situation.

Gao’s statement: A day later, Gao described the company’s statement as a “fabrication,” publishing her own account of the incident (in Chinese). Gao added that she didn’t have access to the recording, and Shouqi refused to share it with her.

Gao said the driver began “checking her out and trying to start a conversation with her” as soon as she entered the car. After the driver changed the routes twice without asking her for permission, she started to “panic,” she said. She then resorted to opening the door to force the driver to stop the car, according to her statment. As the driver continued to drive, Gao “fell out of the open car and rolled a couple of times on the ground … crying out for help hysterically,” said the statement. Gao wrote that passersby, rather than the driver, called the police.She also wrote that she had not heard from the company about medical expenses.Gao did not reply to TechNode’s requests for comment.

Context: Ride-hailing companies in China have long faced scrutiny over safety concerns, forcing market leader Didi to suspend a popular service in 2018 and introduce new safety features in a bid to regain trust.

Founded in 2015, Shouqi is a premium ride-hailing company focused on affluent clients in government and large companies. Unlike Didi, which still operates at a loss, Shouqi said in a 2020 press release that it had turned a profit in July 2019 in Shenzhen and Shanghai. In April 2020, the company has reached profitability nationwide. In 2018, ride-hailing giant Didi faced public outrage after two women were murdered by their drivers on separate occasions. One of the drivers was sentenced to death, while the other committed suicide after the crime. Following the incidents, Didi fired senior executives and suspended its carpooling service.

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