The app was launched in China in 2012 and has since expanded to 16 countries.  

A ride-hailing app that hopes to implement technological solutions to enhance safety for riders has expanded its services to Gauteng, officially launching in the province on Monday, August 23, 2021. 

The app, DiDi, began running in Gauteng after having already operated in parts of the Western Cape and Eastern Cape, where it is competing with the big brands like Uber and Bolt.  

“We pride ourselves with high-tech safety features,” Carina Smith-Allin, DiDi’s head of PR and communications for Sub-Saharan Africa, said to Wits Vuvuzela 

“Some of these include facial recognition for drivers, SOS button for riders and drivers, and private numbers with communication facilitated through the app,” Smith-Allin said, adding that the company hoped the features would give them an advantage over their competitors.  

Raeesa Suffla (21), a final year student at Wits and frequent ride-hailing app user, believes that while the effort to implement new safety measures is commendable, she is not sure if it changes her level of comfort. “At the end of the day, it’s the driver and the passenger [in the car], there is no third party physically present,” she says.  

Lwazi-Lwandile Simelane (20), a third-year law student at the University of Cape Town (UCT), used the app after being referred to it by an Uber driver. Although she appreciates it as an additional option to other ride-sharing apps, she said that she does not see anything particular that sets it apart.  

Simelane does believe that safety is the most important feature when using ride share services. “This is because of how unsafe it actually is for women in South Africa,” said Simelane. 

A US-based Uber safety report found that approximately 6 000 sexual assaults and 19 fatalities were reported to them for the 2017/18 year.  

Over the past few years, people have increasingly taken to social media to report assaults they experienced during rides using Ubers or Bolt, some of which have gone viral. Often, people will include information such as the driver’s name and car registration number in the posts, but these posts are far from the fool proof safety feature app users are looking for.  

“Even though I have grown to be more comfortable to get into an Uber, the thought of jumping in with a stranger alone as a young female is still unsettling,” says Suffla.   

The DiDi app can be downloaded on Google Play and the Apple store.  

FEATURED IMAGE: A frequent ride-share user entering their requested vehicle. Photo: Tshiamo Moloko