Uber Launches Motorcycle Service In Bangkok — Single Passenger Taxi Service Could Spread To Other Crowded Mega Cities Soon?

Uber has launched a motorcycle taxi service in Bangkok. Though experimental, the single passenger taxi service could expand to other mega cities where four-wheeler taxis contribute to the traffic woes.

App-based taxi-hailing company Uber has introduced a motorcycle taxi service in Bangkok. The city faces one of the worst traffic congestions in the world. Interestingly, the move by the company isn’t unique. It did offer a two-wheeler option in Paris in 2012, but only for a short while, reported CNN. Uber appears to be responding to the rising threat of rivals like GrabTaxi, which already offers the option to select a motorcycle, instead of a four-wheeled vehicle in the Thai capital. Called GrabBike, the service is increasingly popular in Thailand, where motorcycles can easily snake their way through heavy traffic and help the passengers reach their destination a lot quicker.

Another service that’s steadily gaining popularity is Go-Jek. While none of the Uber’s competitors are willing to disclose the actual number of passengers they ferry, Grab claims its app has been downloaded more than 11 million times, up from 4.8 million in June. Whereas Go-Jek says its app has been downloaded more than six million times, reported the Wall Street Journal.

What is Uber offering? Uber users in three major business and residential areas of Bangkok will be able to open the firm’s app and hail a motorcycle, reported Green Field Reporter. The driver of the vehicle will pick them up and ferry them to their destinations. Called UberMOTO, the service is meant for single passengers and allows riders to pay the driver in cash or through credit cards. Fares start insanely low at just 10 Thai baht (28 U.S. cents)

Motorcycles are a very popular mode of transport in countries like Thailand and other parts of Southeast Asia. Owing to their insanely high mileage as compared to four-wheelers and very low maintenance, locals usually prefer motorcycles to cars for traveling even for long distances. Motorcycles aren’t considered unsafe, even though they practically lack any safety features that a car offers.

However, no matter how exposed the motorcycle rider and his passenger are, the ability of the two-wheeler vehicle to quickly travel through urban traffic is unmatched. These vehicles can easily avoid gridlocks by cutting lanes of cars standing still because of jams that are painfully common and occur on a daily basis.

Just like bike messengers are able to deliver messages across the length of New York, motorcycles are able to ferry passengers across cities very cheaply and efficiently. That’s why these two-wheelers have become a part of the local culture, said Douglas Ma, Uber’s head of Asia expansion.

“Motorcycles are part of the commuting culture in Thailand. The new service would create tens of thousands of flexible work opportunities for Thais.”

With 600 million people, South East Asian countries are quite important for taxi services. Many of the people live in cities and smartphone penetration is very healthy. The only concern for service companies is that cashless payment systems still aren’t commonly prevalent. Hence, companies like Uber that have to collect payment from thousands of customers on a daily basis, have to allow people to pay for the ride in cash.

Uber hasn’t disclosed exactly how many motorcycle taxis are currently plying on Bangkok’s roads, however, the company’s spokesperson did reveal the company is currently testing the service and depending on the success, could consider, “applicability of this product in emerging markets.”

Besides UberMOTO, Uber launched a service in Philippines, called UberHOP, which allows commuters to share rides during rush hour. Similarly, the company had launched UberGO for India, which allows passengers to summon small hatchback cars, instead of a full-length sedan. Later, the company extended the service to other countries like Sri Lanka, Turkey, and Vietnam.

Uber has been facing a few issues, including its drivers being accused of rape in such developing countries. Even as the company addresses the issues with tighter screening norms, Uber is clearly focused on offering newer services in these regions.

[Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images]