Liang Hwei  |  Singapore
Published 2015-11-11 11:06:40

GrabTaxi is certainly adamant on taking over transport in Singapore. This morning, the taxi and private car booking service announced that they are now exploring ride-sharing with GrabHitch, where drivers with extra space in their vehicles can pick up passengers heading in the same direction.

According to GrabTaxi, this addresses the gap between public transport options like buses and trains, and taxis. The concept of ride-sharing aims to be a win-win solution, providing commuters with a cheaper alternative to taxis and private cars while allowing drivers to earn a little extra spending money to cover travel costs. This will also fill cars to their full capacity, alleviating Singapore’s congestion problems.


“With over half a million private cars in Singapore, there’s a significant pool of vehicles with extra seats for more passengers. Every car has the potential to play a part in improving Singapore’s public transport network and meet with the growing demand of rides each day,” said Anthony Tan, CEO and co-founder of GrabTaxi.

The Battle Of The Ride-Sharing Services

GrabTaxi is moving into the territory of local ride-sharing companies RYDE, Tripda, and SwiftBack. The service can be pre-booked seven days in advance, and up to 15 minutes before pickup. The real clincher that may turn even the heads of carpooling skeptics? The service will cost passengers approximately half the cost of a taxi.


As a company that has been in the thick of regulation issues — especially for their private car service GrabCar — GrabHitch is subject to regulations: drivers will only be able to accept up to two rides a day, and fares will only cover drivers’ variable costs, such as petrol and car depreciation.

All fares will be paid via GrabPay, the company’s cashless payment system, and will be calculated based on the distance of the ride. This will be shown upfront before confirmation.

The service is open for beta signup from 11-30 November via the GrabTaxi app and are open for driver registration today, and will be available to all Singaporeans by the end of the year. For more info, visit hitch.grabtaxi.com.

Ride-Sharing: An Optimist’s Dream?

Ride-sharing is clearly not a new concept, seeing as many local companies have been trying to make carpooling a reality. It maximises the use of space in cars, reducing the number of vehicles on the roads significantly. As a gauge, if two single-occupant drivers choose to share one car, that reduces that number of cars by half.

Image Credit: GrabTaxi
Image Credit: GrabTaxi

In theory, the idea of carpooling is great. The maths proves it works, the business model is sound. There is an open market for services that sit between buses/trains and taxis — mid-priced transportation that doesn’t exist yet but is ready to be tapped upon. And to many, the road to achieve it is straightforward. The only problem that GrabHitch could face — and it is a big problem — is customer acquisition. In Singapore, socialising with strangers just isn’t that appealing to a large majority of locals. For that reason, existing carpooling apps have yet to seriously break ground, with only a handful of riders frequenting those apps.

When questioned on the feasibility of the model, co-founders Tan and Hooi Ling Tan both stood adamantly behind the model. According to them, GrabTaxi has the ability to make this “carpooling on steroids” concept succeed, simply because they have the capital, the scale, the technology, and the talent. GrabTaxi currently has the largest fleet of drivers in Southeast Asia with 160,000 drivers in their network, and has, according to Tan, grown from “a taxi app to a true market leader”. If anyone is to make carpooling work, it’ll be them.

“They said the same thing when we first tried taxis. You’ll never succeed, there’s these taxi incumbents…,” said Tan. “But I think our job as driving Southeast Asia forward is to push and break these lines, these mental borders, and say: look, we all know in this room if we can make it work, Singapore will be a better place — I think there’s no doubt. So let’s push it out. There are 600K cars out there, lots of empty seats, 1.8 million seats out there, let’s use it.”

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