SINGAPORE: Penny-conscious commuters in Singapore can now tap on another carpooling option that is similar to GrabHitch and Ryde.
Enter Uber Commute - a carpooling offering which also bases fares on the costs incurred by the driver, according to Uber’s news release on Wednesday (Mar 14).
It will be available from Thursday on the current Uber app, and riders and drivers can utilise their existing Uber account to access the service.
Uber Commute drivers will get to keep all of the fare, unlike Uber's private-hire drivers who have to give the company a roughly 20 per cent cut. Fares are “expected to be up to 51 per cent cheaper” than its on-demand uberX service, the company says.
“Uber Commute is designed for people who are already driving themselves to and from work, and are open to sharing their daily commute with fellow individuals travelling in the same direction,” said the company, in a news release.
Unlike other services, however, Uber Commute rides are only available from 5am to 10pm on weekdays. Commuters will also not be sharing their rides with other passengers on the same carpool, as only one rider is allowed per trip.
“Based on the regulations, drivers on Uber Commute can only recoup their costs through carpooling,” said Mr Warren Tseng, general manager for Uber Singapore and Malaysia.
He added: “Allowing only one passenger on the trip is the approach we decided to take to ensure adherence to the law on this product."
As for tolls incurred during the ride, drivers would have to agree on splitting the cost with riders they pick up.
“In cases where drivers have to enter an ERP zone to pick up or drop their rider thereby incurring additional fees, drivers may gently ask the rider to share the cost,” according to Uber. “We encourage drivers and riders to discuss this before the start of the trip to avoid disputes.”
Even though Uber is not the first to venture into peer-to-peer carpooling, it believes that the timing is right to introduce its version locally. “We believe that more shared rides will be the future of Singapore,” said Mr Tseng.
Freelancer Phoon Jia Hui, whose job requires him to commute often, told Channel NewsAsia he welcomes the new travel offering by the company.
“It’s good that there is now another (carpooling) option for us to choose from,” said Mr Phoon, 25.
“Pricing options on similar carpooling services are already cheaper than usual cab rides or ride-hailing through uberX and JustGrab. It is also a good way to avoid dynamic pricing surcharges, especially during peak hours."
LIMITED SUPPLY OF DRIVERS?
Transport economist Dr Walter Theseira, however, expressed doubts that Uber Connect will be able to attract drivers, given Singapore's somewhat limited population of car owners.
"Basically, the kind of person motivated to provide such a service would be a person who drives a car of his own and at the same time feels it is worth being inconvenienced to pick up another passenger in order to get a couple of dollars," said the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) lecturer.
"The question is how big is that supply in Singapore?," he added. "I agree there are a category of people who would offer to carpool, and one of them would be those driving on the way to or from work.
"Overall, I’m not sure if that group of people is large. (With limited drivers) you’d then have trouble operating and making your service worthwhile for passengers," observed Dr Theseira.