Local start-up Ryde is upping the ante against its ride-hailing rivals by upgrading its RydeX private-hire car booking service to go on-demand from yesterday.
Before this, RydeX users had to book a ride at least 10 minutes in advance, but they can now request a chauffeured vehicle whenever they want.
This puts RydeX on a par with other ride-hailing players, such as incumbent Grab and new entrants Jugnoo, Filo and Kardi, which progressively entered the market following Uber's exit in March.
Ryde's head of operations Shaun Wu told The Straits Times that the firm has signed up more than 10,000 private-hire drivers, a sizeable pool, for the RydeX service to be offered on an on-demand basis.
While the firm initially aimed for RydeX to go on-demand in the later part of the third quarter, Mr Wu said the launch has been brought forward due to the favourable recruitment.
Mr Wu explained: "Close to 80 per cent of our drivers are ex-Uber... Drivers wanted an additional option (to drive for)."
Mr Wu said that based on testing over the past few weeks, RydeX customers can expect to wait an average of five minutes to get their trip requests accepted by a driver.
Drivers should arrive in around five minutes on average, he added.
Customers can still opt to make a scheduled booking of up to seven days ahead.
Charges for RydeX remain at a minimum fare of $8, and at 60 cents per kilometre, with a surge factor based on supply and demand. Ryde takes a 10 per cent commission from its private-hire car drivers.
While Ryde was launched in 2015 as a car-pooling matching service, Mr Wu said private-hire car rides "may eventually become the core business".
After launching RydeX in May, private-hire car rides have grown to account for more than 40 per cent of trips made on the Ryde platform each day and this may grow to between 60 and 65 per cent in the next few months.
A RydeX driver, who wanted to be identified only as Mr Khoo, hopes that the upgrade will improve business. "The Ryde ridership is not that high. It is not that popular yet compared with Uber or Grab, especially among tourists," said the 54-year-old.