Uber-ComfortDelGro tie-up through UberFlash to start from 6am on Friday

UberFlash promises faster rides by matching commuters with the nearest UberX private-hire car or ComfortDelGro taxi. ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

SINGAPORE - A month after ride-hailing firm Uber and taxi operator ComfortDelgro announced their alliance, their new service UberFlash will be available from 6am on Friday (Jan 19).

The service, available on the Uber app, promises faster rides by matching commuters with the nearest UberX private-hire car or ComfortDelgro taxi. ComfortDelgro, the largest taxi operator here, has 13,695 taxis under the Comfort and CityCab brands, while Uber has about 14,000 vehicles under its rental arm, Lion City Rentals.

Fares for the service will be based on dynamic pricing, where prices increase during periods of high demand. However, the two firms said fares will be an average of 5 to 10 per cent cheaper than an equivalent UberX ride.

The introduction of UberFlash comes 10 months after Uber's rival Grab introduced JustGrab, a similar service, in partnership with the other five taxi firms here.

However, Uber's Asia Pacific chief business officer Brooks Entwistle denied that the tie-up was in response to Grab's initiative, saying it was in line with Uber's "global strategy of partnering with world-class institutions".

He added he viewed the collaboration with ComfortDelgo as a long-term one.

"We see the partnership (with ComfortDelgro) going five or 10 years, or beyond," said Mr Entwistle, noting that Uber had also partnered taxi companies in other countries like Taiwan and Malaysia.

When contacted for comment on Uber's new service, a Grab spokesman said: "Grab pioneered and got approvals for taxis to use dynamic fares and has a history of working in partnership with taxi companies." However, she added the firm "welcomed other companies to join us to outserve our customers".

The partnership between Uber and ComfortDelgro - which includes ComfortDelgro acquiring a 51 per cent stake in Uber-owned Lion City Holdings, valued at about $642 million - is still being reviewed by the Competition Commission of Singapore.

However, Uber Singapore general manager Warren Tseng said the two firms were given "special permission" to proceed with the launch of UberFlash. ComfortDelgro Taxis chief executive Ang Wei Neng added that UberFlash is the first in a series of collaborations between the two firms but did not give further details.

While he declined to comment on how many ComfortDelgro taxi drivers had signed up for UberFlash, Uber Singapore general manager Warren Tseng said the service had generated a "tremendous amount of interest" among cabbies.

"They want to explore this new platform, and see what it will be like for them," he said. As part of the agreement between the two companies, Uber will take a 10 per cent cut of the fare from ComfortDelgro cabbies from each UberFlash booking, he said. In comparison, the commission of each ride taken from Uber's private-hire drivers is 20 per cent of each fare.

However, National Taxi Association executive adviser Ang Hin Kee said Uber's driver incentives - which reward drivers based on the number of trips they manage to clock - could help supplement their income.

One cabby who has signed up for the new service, Mr Stannley Chiok, said it was too early to say how exactly UberFlash would affect his income.

However, the 43-year old, who has been driving a Comfort taxi for six years, is hopeful he will now be able to get more passengers through the new service. "It's better than driving on the road empty, searching for passengers."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.