18 March 2016
Growth of Ride-Sharing App Seen as Environmental and Social Boon
The Didi Hitch app pairs passengers and private drivers as a low-cost way of commuting.
Set on out-Ubering Uber, Didi Chuxing was formed following the 2015 merger of Kauadi Dache and Didi Dache, two of the mainland's leading taxi-booking apps. Keen to distance itself from the negative connotations associated with the online taxi-hailing sector, the combined company has sought to establish its credentials in other transportation sectors, including car and coach hire. One of the first fruits of the merger, though, was the launch of Didi Hitch, its dedicated ride-sharing app.
Launched in June 2015, Didi Hitch pairs up would-be passengers with drivers already heading for their target destination. Typically, a passenger makes a request on the app, a driver indicates their willingness to share their car, and the two meet up and proceed to the destination. The passenger then pays the driver a relatively small sum as a contribution towards the petrol and both parties are then free to leave feedback on their experience.
Unusually, Didi Hitch does not charge any fees to drivers or passengers, with the whole value of the transaction being payable to the car owner. In terms of costs, charges vary in different cities according to local traffic conditions and vehicle use costs. Typically, though, fees start at around Rmb5-10 per trip, with the total cost then calculated on an Rmb1 per kilometre basis.
Commenting on the success of the app, Liu Qing, President of Didi Chuxing said: "Didi Hitch offers users a pleasant experience when it comes to sharing and developing relationships. It may well become the new norm for eco-friendly living."
Explaining a number of the app's key benefits, Huang Jieli, Didi Hitch's General Business Manager, said ride-sharing is most in demand when it comes to commuting to and from work. He also highlighted the popularity of the app's "tag" feature, which allows drivers and passengers to endorse one another after the successful completion of a shared trip. These tags can then be used to pair compatible drivers/passengers for future journeys.
Overall, the rise of ride-sharing is seen as having real benefits, both in terms of improving traffic flow and in reducing pollution levels. Figures from a number of mainland cities also show the huge potential for such a service.
In Beijing, for instance, according to the Ministry of Public Security's Traffic Management Bureau and Baidu, there are now 63 cars for every 100 households. At the same time, the average one-way commute for Beijing office workers is 19.2 kilometres, with an average journey time of 52 minutes. It is clear then, that ride-sharing could drastically cut the number of cars on the roads, potentially reducing both travel time and environmental damage.
Looking beyond the capital, according to 2014 figures from the Ministry of Public Security, the mainland is now home to more than 300 million licensed motorists, including 244 million licensed passenger-car drivers. In total, as of November 2014, there were also 154 million cars in China. With these figures only set to rise, it is clear that the growth in ride-sharing is both socially and environmentally desirable.
A number of other countries have been swift to recognise the potential benefits of the practice. In the US, the government has been keen to nurture the practice through a series of initiatives aimed at helping to schedule rides and pair drivers and passengers. The most sophisticated example of the practice can be seen in Germany, where every city now has a dedicated office for co-ordinating ride-sharing.
Lynn Ma, Beijing Office