Car sharing company Uber lately unveiled that its fleet will get a new type of transportation, namely motorcycles.
Dubbed UberMoto, the company's new service is the first of its kind that allows users to hail a ride on two wheels instead of four. The service premieres in Bangkok, a place where car traffic is at staggering levels.
Uber, initially a San Francisco startup, is now present in 350 cities in 60 countries. Even if the explosive growth happened over a course of six years, the company has strong global competition from rivals such as Lyft. Local markets also developed their own variants of Uber, such as GrabTaxi in Southeast Asia and Didi Kuaidi in China.
Uber is not the first ride-sharing service to introduce motorcycle rides in Southeast Asia, as Grab already offers the two-wheel option for its clients. GrabTaxi claims that it is the largest taxi-booking app in the region, counting more than 60,000 taxi drivers in its network. The company also counts about half a million active users and 2.5 million downloads of its mobile app.
The main reason why Uber introduced UberMoto is to help passengers spend less time and money on fares, which applies especially for short distances.
UberMoto comes loaded with all standard Uber safety features. This means that motorcycle passengers and drivers can give feedback about each other, passengers are encouraged to share relevant trip details with fellow Uber users and GPS tracking is enabled.
What is more, drivers who enlist in the UberMoto program must be vetted by a police background check.
Bangkok is far from being a random testing ground for the new service. Uber crafted the moto version of its initial car-sharing program with an eye at developing countries, Reuters reports indicate.
One of the main "advantages" that qualified Bangkok is the rate of its surging automotive traffic.
Uber brings some figures to back up its choice. More than 1,500 new cars join the Bangkok traffic daily, causing average traffic speeds of 16 km/h (9 mph) tops.
Things get even more complicated during rush hours, when the average speed drops to 6.8 mph. With a default two hours a day spent in locked traffic, drivers and passengers alike will be happy to get a quicker alternative of going from home to work and vice versa.
Users can hail a two-wheeled Uber ride just as they would with a regular car. Passengers simply tap the UberMoto option from the Uber mobile app, choose the pickup location and preferred method of payment.
Then, the screen displays details about the driver, to help the passenger identify the person. To stay in line with Bangkok's street safety regulations, all passengers get a helmet to wear during the ride.
Uber touts that UberMoto is the most affordable transportation option in Bangkok, to date. Rates start at 10 Thai Baht (28 American cents), adding 0.02 cents per minute and 10 cents per kilometer.
Until the company gets enough feedback, UberMoto will work in certain areas of Bangkok. Uber is optimistic, and expects "demand [...] to be off the charts." With time, it is realistic to see UberMoto drivers hired to offer the service all around Thailand's capital and eventually expand globally.