Carpool app Ryde teams up with ComfortDelGro

Ryde users can book a taxi from S'pore's largest cab operator using referral service to be launched this month

Local carpooling app Ryde is set to expand into the taxi-booking market, joining the likes of Grab and Uber, The Straits Times (ST) has learnt.

In addition to finding drivers to hitch a ride with, Ryde's users will be able to book a taxi from ComfortDelGro, the island's largest taxi operator.

The service will be launched later this month.

ComfortDelGro, which owns 16,300 taxis under the Comfort and CityCab brands, told ST recently that the firms are in discussions to develop this booking referral service.

The partnership will expand ComfortDelGro's taxi services to some 100,000 users who are registered on the Ryde platform, among whom 70,000 are passengers and the remaining 30,000, car owners.

Ryde, which was founded three years ago by entrepreneur Terence Zou, has applied to the Land Transport Authority (LTA) for a licence to offer the third-party taxi-booking services. The LTA said it is processing the application.

With the Ryde app's ability to link up users based on their travel routes, it is possible that ComfortDelGro could later expand into taxi sharing. This means taxi passengers could be matched up with strangers via the Ryde app to share their rides, in return for a discounted fare.

But when asked, ComfortDelGro's group corporate communications officer Tammy Tan said it will "not be involved in the carpooling service".

However, Mr Zou told ST last week: "In time, we will roll out more features to facilitate (taxi) sharing - such as grouping users with the same home-work route. Users can then carpool or share a taxi through our app..."

Dr Park Byung Joon, a transport expert at the Singapore University of Social Sciences, said it will not be a surprise if ComfortDelGro ventures into taxi-sharing.

The taxi industry has come under stiff competition from apps Uber and Grab, which already offer users the opportunity to share their private-hire car rides.

Dr Park said the cab industry has been copying private-hire car services, including dynamic pricing. Trans-Cab, Premier, Prime, SMRT and HDT Singapore Taxi adopted dynamic pricing two months ago.

ComfortDelGro introduced its flat-fare option last month, but the jury is out on whether taxi commuters will share their rides.

In 1997, the LTA launched a Share-a-Cab initiative but this was discontinued because of the low take-up rate. Under the scheme, commuters keyed in their destinations in information panels at the taxi stands.

Dr Park said: "With the mobile app, it can be a lot easier to find another passenger. The resistance to sharing a cab may be a lot less."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 02, 2017, with the headline 'Carpool app Ryde teams up with ComfortDelGro'. Subscribe