Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Car Pooling has reached our shores... finally!

I just saw this news from CNA!

I have to say... Wow, finally!

Sure, there have been other feeble attempts to get carpooling going in Singapore, but I think it's safe to say that they have all failed miserably because I can't even recall the names of any such service.

Personally as someone who enjoys not being a debt slave, transport alternatives other than the basic public transport vs taxis vs private cars continuum helps consumers like me find a better solution for our transportation needs.

Public transport is cheap, but it operates only through certain times and the time taken can vary massively and it is not always the most convenient choice.

Private cars are obscenely expensive, but they can be used at all times of the day for pretty much whatever you wants. The main cons are that you need to have a drivers licence and you actually have to "use your brain" while driving. Did I mention it's also really expensive?

Taxis have so far been the option that sits between these 2 extreme choices. For a price more expensive than public transport, but cheaper than a private car, you will be chauffeured to your destination and you can do whatever you want - be it take a nap or even do some work. The main con is the ability to summon a taxi when and where you need it, without having to pay a ridiculous price. Taxi alternatives have been making this easier on 2 fronts - availability and price.

Now (hopefully) carpooling can create a new alternative to our transport options. Personally, I can envision myself using carpooling. If I can find a compatible driver who can matches well with me for my travel time and location, I wouldn't mind to "book" a ride with the driver on a regular schedule. That means we basically share our calendar of our regular schedule and 90% of the time I would hitch a ride. On those days where either of us has a change in schedule, we can inform each other in advance and I can decide on an alternative way to get to my destination then.

The main challenge of this is getting both users and drivers to remain within the GrabHitch ecosystem, instead of bypassing the system and creating a private transaction instead. However, with the GPS locator and their payment system in place, perhaps all they need is a good UI and calendar for the main driver and his hitch hikers to share their schedule.

Since carpooling is not on-demand and is instead pre-planned, in my opinion, it is correctly priced to be less than a taxi. If not, why would anyone not call a taxi instead?

I know a lot of people don't believe that win-win situations actually exists, but I think this is a good example on a win-win situation. A car owner who goes out of his way maybe an extra-5-10 minutes during his daily routine can offset the high costs of owning a private car in Singapore. Passengers who carpool get to enjoy the comfort of a regular taxi, but at a cheaper price. Passenger safety (being attacked, or worse) is a very low cause of concern given that all the drivers will have to be registered and... well, this is Singapore. I don't think they want to ruin their lives. My personal concern would be more about the driver's track record. I would choose the driver with a clean safety record and does not have reckless driving habits.

I can definitely see how this can benefit a lot of Singaporeans. Now the only question would be how many people actually take part? It would be amazing if GrabHitch can build up a robust user base and help make carpooling a common experience. I can definitely see myself using this as my main method of work commute in the future.

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