DiDi Chuxing, the $US50 billion Chinese ride-sharing giant, is coming to Australia announcing today that its core service, DiDi Express, will launch in Melbourne on Monday, June 25.
“Australia’s diversified mobility needs, business-friendly environment and inclusive culture have encouraged DiDi to commit to a long-term investment to improve mobility solutions across the country,” the company said in a statement.
The business has been running a beta service around Geelong over the last month and says driver recruiting for Melbourne began earlier this month.
DiDi claims it has 550 million users worldwide, with 21 million drivers operating in around 1000 cities.
It’s unchallenged in China, having bought out Uber there in 2016.
Uber pioneered ride-sharing in Australia back in 2012, operating illegally for a number of years until ride-sharing began to be legalised in 2016.
DiDdi enters a crowded market that already includes Estonian-based Taxify, GoCatch and India’s Ola, which began operating in Sydney and Melbourne earlier this year.
But the business already has it bets hedged with stakes in Ola and Taxify, as well as Singapore-based Grab and US service Lyft.
The global business will operate locally as a wholly-owned subsidiary DiDi Mobility (Australia) Pty. Ltd.
Meanwhile, the company faced difficulties in its homeland recently after a 21-year-old female flight attendant was allegedly killed by her driver, who was unverified and using his father’s account. The victim was using Didi’s Hitch service, which is similar to UberPool.
On Thursday DiDi announced it will limit carpool rides late at night and early morning in China so drivers can only pick up passengers of the same sex.
It also plans to introduce compulsory facial recognition for drivers, and will ditch passenger profile photos, as well as trialing an “escort mode”, similar to the Uber function, so passengers to share their route and destination with emergency contacts.
Last month DiDi said it would scrap a function in its app that allowed drivers and passengers to rate each other by appearance. Bloomberg reported that female passengers were being labelled as “goddesses” and “beauties.”
The company has opened a driver hub in Tullamarine ahead of its Melbourne launch. To encourage people to trial its app, DiDi is offering 50% off rides in Melbourne between June 25 and the end of July. The discount is capped at a maximum of $10 per trip and limited to two trips per day.
“Feedback from drivers and passengers in Melbourne and Geelong will be used to shape product offerings and user experience in Australia, and for the launch of DiDi Express in other cities,” the company said.