Online cab aggregator Uber has launched UberMOTO, a pilot service which allows users to book a ride on a motorcycle through its app in Bangkok in Sathorn, Siam, and Silom areas. It plans to extend the service to other Bangkok areas in the coming months. The company cites that 1,500 new cars come on the Bangkok roads everyday, also leading to larger commute times and directly causing congestion and pollution.
Police background checks for riders
Like the cab service, UberMOTO can be chosen on the app, where a bike rider closest to the user’s location will pick them up to drop them to their destination. It stresses that bike riders have undergone a screening process, including a police background check (a thing Uber has been criticised for given the recent shooting in the US by a Uber car driver). Important to note that Uber states that it does not employ drivers or riders, only connects them to passengers through its app.
UberMOTO riders will provide a helmet for the passenger, given Bangkok’s law of requiring the pillion rider to wear a helmet as well. Bangalore recently brought a similar rule into reinforcement last month. And passengers can pay through cash or credit card, a receipt of which will be mailed to them. For the launch, Uber has partnered with the Thai Traffic Police and Head Awareness Club to create awareness about motorcycle safety and will deliver free helmets to young students and adults. In Southeast Asia, UberMOTO competes with Grab’s GrabBike and Go-Jek.
Bike taxis in India:
– Earlier this month, Noida-based bike taxi app N.O.W raised an undisclosed amount in seed funding from investment banking firm Maple Capital Advisors.
– Last month, Bikxie, a bike taxi service, raised an undisclosed amount of angel funding from two individuals, one from the Middle East and one from India.
– M-taxi launched in Gurgaon in December last year.
– Baxi Taxi launched in Gurgaon in the same month.
– In the same month, Jayanagar RTO in Bangalore apparently received applications from 3 aggregators for permits. The transport department also allegedly fixed the fares for bike taxis.
– In June, Hey Taxi! was shut down a week after its launch by the Mumbai RTO citing that it did not have government sanctions.
Its important to note that in November, Haryana followed Goa’s suit to allow bikes as a mode of public transport, letting users get bike rides from either their apps or from bike taxi stands in the city, complete with a uniform and helmets. These are the only 2 states in India where it is legal to have bike taxis.
MediaNama’s take: There’s a chance that UberMOTO will launch in India sometime soon, given that Uber says that it is made for developing countries. Ultimately, it is companies that are coming in to fill the gaping gaps in India’s unreliable and yet incapable public transport and broken infrastructure to help people travel within or outside the city. While cab aggregators are getting popular and facing flak by offline service providers in the country, bike taxis will take off for similar reasons: convenience and the fact that they can navigate through the city faster than a cab and buses/tempo travellers. Even if it is not a great long term solution, bike taxis will help users in the short term. It is an ironic point to note that the exact reason why people will take bike taxis will supplement to the problem of traffic congestion in cities, unless the government pulls off a miracle of fixing public transport before matters get worse (see this MediaNama’s take for health hazards).