Carpooling service Uber Commute hits the road today

Uber Commute allows motorists headed to work to pick up passengers for a small fee to cover costs such as petrol.
Uber Commute allows motorists headed to work to pick up passengers for a small fee to cover costs such as petrol.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Commuters heading to work have another transport option with the introduction of Uber Commute, a carpooling service by ride-hailing firm Uber.

Uber Commute, which begins operating today, allows motorists headed to work to pick up passengers for a small fee to cover costs such as petrol.

Unlike rival services GrabHitch and Ryde, however, Uber Commute rides are limited to between 5am and 10pm on weekdays, and drivers can pick up only one passenger per trip.

This is to ensure that the service meets carpooling regulations which restrict drivers to two trips a day.

Unlike Uber's other services where drivers pay a percentage of the fares to the firm, Uber Commute drivers get to keep the entire fare.

The fare is expected to be about half of that for an equivalent ride on UberX, the company's standard private-hire car service.

"Not everything we do is about profit," Mr Warren Tseng, general manager for Uber in Singapore and Malaysia, said yesterday.

Despite reports that the American ride-hailing giant plans to sell its South-east Asian business to its Singapore-based rival Grab, the firm is continuing to invest in the region, said Mr Tseng.

"Products like Uber Commute are reflective of our investment," he said, adding that the service was an "investment" in Singapore's car-lite ambitions.

Uber Commute comes more than two years after GrabHitch and Ryde made their debut, shortly after the Road Traffic Act was amended to allow carpooling drivers to be paid a fee .

However, Mr Tseng is not concerned about coming in late in the game. "We don't have to be the first to market. We want to make sure we do it right and the experience is good," he said.

While sharing a car trip might have been a "weird concept" a few years ago, Mr Tseng said people here are now more open to the idea.

He noted that one in four rides on the Uber app here is through the ride-sharing service UberPool, which matches several passengers heading in the same direction with a single private-hire car.

Ms Larissa Ong, 25, who signed up for Uber Commute, appreciated that it was available on the existing Uber app. "I just came back to Singapore, and Uber is the app that I used in other countries to get around," said Ms Ong.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 15, 2018, with the headline 'Carpooling service Uber Commute hits the road today'. Print Edition | Subscribe