Uber is expanding its services from four wheels to two after the U.S. company launched a motorbike taxi on-demand service in Thailand.
‘UberMoto’ is initially a pilot service in Bangkok, a city where motorbike taxis are already a popular way to beat the city’s dreadful traffic and get from A to B quicker. Uber has offered two wheels for courier services, like UberRush, but this is the first time it has ferried passengers around on motorbikes. Available within the existing Uber app as a new service, the base fare is 10THB ($0.30) and 3.5THB ($0.10) per kilometer or 0.85 THB ($0.025) per minute.
The company said that the UberMoto service is “specifically developed for cities in emerging markets” where congestion is high, so it seems plausible that UberMoto may be extended to new cities and countries over time. (That said, Uber recently shuttered an auto-rickshaw pilot in India, showing that not all projects become wider launches.)
It is easy to see greater demand for motorbikes on-demand outside of Thailand. Grab, Uber’s big rival in Southeast Asia, offers a similar service — ‘GrabBike’ — in Bangkok, Vietnam and Indonesia. Indonesia is also home to Go-Jek, a fast-growing service backed by Sequoia that has 200,000 drivers and offers passenger, logistics and delivery services. Like Go-Jek, building a fleet of motorbike drivers could unlock logistics and delivery opportunities for Uber in the future, too.
For now, though, UberMoto is focused on Bangkok, where Uber said 1,500 new cars come on the road each day and the average daily commute is a staggering two hours. “This kind of congestion undermines everyone’s quality of life,” the U.S. firm said in a statement.
Uber is also putting a focus on safety. It has partnered with the Thai police and Head Awareness, a branch of the Don’t Drive Drunk Foundation that promotes wearing helmets on motorbikes. While it is not uncommon to take a motorbike taxi and not be given a helmet to wear, Uber — like Grab — said its drivers will carry one for passengers.
Uber’s other experiments in Asia have included a logistics service in Hong Kong, and it recently expanded shuttle bus service UberHop to Manila in the Philippines. Uber has spent the last year rolling out a cash payment option in emerging markets, opening its service up to users who don’t own a credit card, and motorbikes are another obvious localization move in Asia.