Uber launches Motorbike Taxi service in Bangkok

  Uber is taking on the regional player, Grab (formerly Grab Taxi), in South East Asia with its new motorbike taxi service in Bangkok - U...

 
Uber is taking on the regional player, Grab (formerly Grab Taxi), in South East Asia with its new motorbike taxi service in Bangkok - Ubermoto. The Thai capital, as with other major cities in the region, is known for horrific congestion due to the increasing number of cars on roads not designed nor built for such heavy traffic.

Singapore-based Grab started offering motorbike-hailing service - alongside its core taxi-hailing service - in Bangkok last year. The two-wheeler is a popular choice of commute there, as skilled motorbike riders are able to weave in between stationary vehicles, undeterred by stalled traffic. There are close to 100,000 motorbike taxi drivers available in the city, and GrabBike is an easy way for them to find a pillion passenger via the mobile app; vice versa, passengers can book a ride with the assurance that some sort of fair fare or meter will be used. Uber is offering pretty much the same service with Ubermoto.

Uber’s Asia head, Douglas Ma, revealed to reporters that Bangkok will only be the first of many more cities to come: "I'm really excited to say Thailand is the first country to launch a two-wheeled motorcycle product in all of our cities."

The San Francisco-based company has faced government bans and protests from taxi operators almost everywhere it has gone into – 68 countries and counting. Yet, it is still one of the world’s most valuable startups, with recent estimated value standing at US$50 billion. To "grab" some of Grab’s market share (pun intended), the American company will offer fares cheaper than the regular or Grab’s motorbike taxis, and start by rolling out its service in three commercial districts - along Sathorn and Silom Roads, and around Siam Square.

Ma declined to reveal how many motorbike drivers had already signed up or “jumped bike”, so to speak, but the company is offering lucrative cash incentives to new drivers. 

Uber is still in talks with local authorities over its taxi hailing service, launched in the country in 2014; the Thai government has declared the service illegal for non-registered vehicles. Uber will use, however only licensed motorbike drivers and will keep above board, and be a "pioneer in everything." Er…isn’t the definition of pioneer ‘the first’, and wasn’t that GrabBike? Last year, Uber tried to take on India’s Ola with the UberAuto, the rickshaw-hailing feature, but that project eventually died a discreet death. So, may the best app win.

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