App opens up new private car service in Singapore

Uber offers an alternative to taking the taxi. (Photo provided byUber)

A new kind of private driver service was officially launched in Singapore Thursday, offering commuters an alternative form of transport.

Called an on-demand limousine service, Uber is basically an application which will provide luxury transportation for you at your convenience.

All you need to do is download the Uber app, register, key in your location and the nearest driver will be dispatched to you with an estimated arrival time. It functions similar to a taxi booking service, but the difference is that the cars used are of premium brands such as Mercedes-Benz, hence putting it a class above the regular taxis.

At the end of your ride, the fare is charged to your credit card on file, and you receive a detailed receipt in-app and via email.

Unlike a car sharing or car rental company, Uber does not own a fleet of cars. They work with limousine companies and the cars come complete with professional drivers dressed in suits and ties.

At the moment, you won't be able to choose the type of car you'll get, but in other cities such as San Francisco, the user can select different categories of vehicles.

Prices start with a base fare of S$7.00. After that, the charge will depend on the speed – S$2.25 per kilometre at speeds over 18km/h or S$0.85 per minute at speeds below 18km/h. There is also a minimum fare of S$12.00.

A journey from Clarke Quay to Marina Bay Sands,  for example, should cost about S$16.00. Flat rates apply for journeys made from the airport to the central business district.

“The objective of Uber.com is to expand the transportation market and provide people with new options in transportation. We also help to offer more jobs for drivers. This service is for anyone who is looking for a luxurious and comfortable transportation experience,” said Sam Gellman, head of Asia expansions at Uber.

Uber was established three years ago in San Francisco. As part of its global expansion, Singapore is the 28th market but the first Asian country for Uber and the base of its regional operations.

“We chose Singapore as our Asia headquarters because it is a central business hub and very innovation-friendly. The volatility of the weather is also a factor in the transportation sector and we hope to help solve it. The purpose of Uber is to provide dependability, safety, quality of service and also improve efficiency of the existing transportation system,” said Ryan Graves, head of operations at Uber.

Trials started about three weeks ago and response has been very encouraging, with almost 2,000 sign-ups before the launch. Marcus Leong, 30, marketing executive, has tried Uber twice.

He said, “I gave Uber a try out of curiosity. I don’t own a car and I take taxis pretty often. Hiring a private driver from Uber cost me about three times more than taking a regular taxi. The next time I use it would probably be when I have a guest in town, so I can impress the guest.”

Passionate about cars and motorsports, Cheryl Tay is a familiar face in prominent local, regional as well as international automotive titles. More of her at www.cheryl-tay.com.