S.E.A.View: On the road, algorithms aren't everything

Ride-hailing apps are changing commuter habits in South-east Asia, but they are a mixed blessing

One night in Yangon, as I bid goodbye to my friend and his wife after dinner, they widened their eyes in horror when I tried to wave down a passing cab. No, we will get you a Grab taxi, they insisted. My friend jabbed at his phone, trying to open the app, before realising that the cellphone signal was too weak to run the function.

His wife tried it on her phone but failed. Undeterred, the man gathered up his sarong and sat down on the steps outside the suburban mall. He roped in a friend who happened to walk by. The trio swiped resolutely at their frozen phones while streams of empty cabs roared past.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 07, 2019, with the headline 'On the road, algorithms aren't everything'. Print Edition | Subscribe