SINGAPORE - Commuters will soon be able to book shared rides on ride-hailing app Grab for a slightly lower price and with a smaller chance of a sudden detour in exchange for waiting time of up to five minutes for the ride.
The addition to GrabShare will be introduced for rides booked from Tampines, Pasir Ris and Changi from July 8, and will be implemented for all areas around Singapore by July 18.
Commuters will also be able to get the estimated time of arrival at their destination for all of Grab's ride-hailing options, except its hitching service, prior to booking their rides, Grab said at a media briefing on Monday (July 1).
The changes come as part of Grab's response to feedback from passengers and drivers.
Grab did not say how much cheaper this new GrabShare option would be, but showed one example where the booking turned out to be $2.50 cheaper than the $17.50 the current system would charge.
With the current GrabShare system, passengers are matched with up to two other sets of passengers in return for fares that can be up to 35 per cent cheaper than a non-shared ride.
While these bookings are cheaper, passengers could end up in situations where their rides take unexpected detours in response to a sudden new booking request.
Some passengers told Grab that this would result in delays.
The new option would match passengers before their trip, in a way where the rides can be fulfilled within a stated time.
If a ride is not fully matched, it is still possible that these passengers can be matched with others after the trip has started, as is the case with the current GrabShare system.
But Grab said this would be on the premise that it still falls within the estimated time of arrival when the initial passenger booked his ride.
This would help address passengers' needs for a clear arrival time at their destination.
When asked if compensation would be provided for rides ending outside the estimated time, Grab's country head in Singapore Yee Wee Tang said: "We will try to keep to time as much as possible.
"If (the estimated timing is off) very often, of course we will take customer's feedback and make adjustments to the time estimated."
Noting that drivers would also stand to benefit, he added: "For the driver-partners, with the higher match rates, they will get better earnings, and they no longer have to worry about from going point to point with just one GrabShare rider."
Drivers lose out in cases of unmatched GrabShare rides, as they would collect only the fare from just one passenger, which is lower than non-shared rides.
Mr Yee declined to revealed specific figures, but said that GrabShare made up a "significant proportion" of the total rides that Grab fulfils.
In the long term, he said the move would contribute to Grab's efforts to eventually offer sharing services on larger vehicles, such as seven-seaters or 13-seaters.
"This is really about whether we can create more efficiency by making passengers wait five minutes, and if that's the positive impact of this new enhanced GrabShare, then yes, we will work on the next GrabShare product," he said.
Mr Bok Chek Yang, 38, administrator of the PHV Riders and Drivers Singapore Facebook group, said the new GrabShare option would help to reduce complaints.The Grab user added: "The new system would help to improve the chances of better matches and easier pick-ups."
But he said it could lead to more bookings with three destinations.