Ride-share or carpool? Name your pick
Urbanites are moving toward a Life as a Service (LaaS) society where transportation is witnessing dramatic changes with ride sharing, backed by mobile technology.
In India, Ola with its OlaShare and Uber with its UberPOOL are trying to transform personal transportation using their ride-sharing platforms. Apps such as Jump In Jump Out, LiftO, BlaBlaCar, and Tripda also help people to search for or offer lifts and share the cost of commuting by taxi or autorickshaws. There are also city-based carpooling platforms like Let’s Drive Along.
How will Bengalureans benefit by joining this bandwagon? The platform providers say it will reduce the high costs incurred on their personal transportation, and that ride-sharing reduces the levels of toxic emissions in the air and congestion in the city.
According to Zaiba, a regular user of app-based transportation and a fellow traveller with this correspondent on an OlaShare ride, the facility has really transformed the convenience of transportation. “We (myself and my sister) are regular travellers of Ola. I am testing OlaShare for the first time and enjoyed the ride only for Rs 70. I am going to see a movie along with my friends,” she said.
To avail OlaShare, you have to activate the Share icon inside the Ola app and then type in your destination. If a vehicle is available, you will get a message, along with the ride charge. When this correspondent opted for a ride from Indiranagar to MG Road Metro Station, he was notified of the availability and could access the car within five minutes.
Once the driver arrives, he will summon us to the main road to get into the vehicle. This correspondent’s driver was kind enough to reach his doorstep. On getting into the vehicle, this correspondent received a message saying he would be charged Rs 57 for the 3.7-km-long ride.
The OlaShare cab provides free Wi-Fi and the driver will have to navigate the vehicle as per instructions given by the Ola call centre. Passengers get to rate the ride on parameters like driver behaviour and facilities in the car. This correspondent gave a five-star rating since the OlaShare driver was very kind enough to pick him from his doorstep.
When asked about the sharing service, the driver said his vehicle joined this service three days back. “I am getting at least 10 rides per day and get an incentive of Rs 2,000 from Ola. I also get an opportunity to rate passengers. Some uncouth ones will smoke inside the vehicle and instruct us to halt wherever they find it convenient to get into a bar or a hotel. If a passenger gets continuous single-star rating, then his app will be automatically locked,” he said.
OlaShare also provides the option of choosing a social ride-sharing system, with the same comfort and convenience of booking a regular Ola ride. According to the company, OlaShare will now be available in beta, to select users in Bengaluru and across five cities over the next three months.
“Customers can use OlaShare at an introductory fare of Rs 50 anywhere in Bangalore. Any number of customers can now travel with users from social groups they choose to be part of, without having to share their ride with strangers, allowing for increased privacy,” said Anand Subramanian, Senior Director, Marketing Communications, at Ola.
The company has introduced the concept of social groups on its app. With Groups, colleagues from a workplace and friends from a college can come together to share rides among themselves. A user can join multiple groups or simply choose to share a ride with anyone. As soon as a user requests a Share ride on the Ola app, they will be matched with other users from their groups along their way.
UberPOOL claims success
Uber Bengaluru General Manager Bhavik Rathod said the company announced UberPOOL in September 2014 in select areas of Bengaluru and has been receiving overwhelming response.
UberPOOL costs 35 per cent less than standard UberGo trips. UberPOOL is available in select areas in the city from 7 am to 9 pm for corporate riders, with up to two passengers per pickup. To share a ride, you will need to select UberGo in the app, enter your pickup location and destination, and choose ‘Share your car’. Uber says its drivers will only wait two minutes to collect passengers, so you’ll have to be ready to hop in when your car arrives.
“Passengers will enjoy lower fares than if they took a standard UberGo trip, and you’ll be able to view a cost comparison before you book. Two days back we also started the money payment system. However, surge pricing will apply, just as with other trips on the platform,” said Rathod.
The Bengaluru launch marks the first time the company has made carpooling available anywhere in India. UberPOOL was first launched in San Francisco last August, and has since expanded to more than a dozen cities across the world, including Chengdu in China, where it does more business than anywhere else.
“The overwhelming response in Bengaluru is mainly because we have four main arterial roads to reach a destination and most of the passengers can line up along the road. We are planning to expand this facility in Bengaluru soon,” said Rathod.
According to Ishan Gupta, Head (OlaShare), most vehicles see only 33 per cent utilisation of capacities. “At Ola, our goal is to build mobility for a billion Indians and this requires us to innovate constantly. With Share, we not only bring economy, convenience, and comfort of travelling with people in your circles, but also increased inventory utilisation.”
Carpoolers are different
Spantad Solutions Co-founder and CEO Srinath S, who owns the carpooling app Let’s Drive Along, has an altogether different perspective. “Carpooling is not used in its true sense throughout the country. We believe in reducing traffic but these companies are purely into increasing leisure in rides by filling up seats. Bengaluru is clogged with vehicles of ITeS firms. Our intention is to reduce traffic on roads by pooling cars every day,” he said.
Srinath said his app addresses the issues of security and flexibility. “We have 8,000 app downloads and there are 2,000 active users. We collect the information of those who are riding from specific locations to their offices in specific localities. Once this app is downloaded, this information is shared with other persons. The rider can choose with whom he should ride,” he said.
He said that the stranger and danger issue is completely wiped out by the background check and there is no need for the rider to ride along with the same rider every time. “We call the driver as Sarathy and once he picks up three people for a five-kilometre ride, he will get 15 points. Once a person’s points becomes zero he can’t go for a ride and then he will have to take his car. We normally won’t look into the fuel efficiency of the vehicle, but rather help owners pool it for reducing traffic congestion,” he said.
Spantad monetises its solution by tying up with corporates. “We have already tied up with corporates and technology parks. We help them to reduce their commuting and parking expenses. We have also tweaked the app so that corporates can use the app for those who don’t have their own cars,” he said.
Srinath said his app is endorsed by the Bengaluru Traffic Police and has got exposure via social media. Ride-sharing and carpooling firms are really attempting to bring in disruption in the personal transportation front. Only time will tell how much of a difference they will be able to make.