Uber gears up to attract more taxi riders via ComfortDelGro tie-up

Wong Casandra
Senior Reporter
(PHOTO: Wong Casandra/Yahoo News Singapore)

From 6am onwards on Friday (19 January), riders will be able to hail ComfortDelGro taxis via Uber’s new service UberFLASH and pay up to 10 per cent lower compared with the ride-hailing firm’s private hire option uberX.

Unveiled at a media conference on Thursday, UberFLASH taps a combined pool of ComfortDelGro taxis and uberX vehicles.

Riders who use the service will see an average fare of five to ten per cent lower compared to booking via the uberX option, with promises of reduced waiting time – less than five minutes – and quicker trips. It will, however, be subjected to dynamic pricing, which translates to higher fares when demand rises.

Unlike its current UberTaxi option, which allows riders to book taxis under metered pricing, riders will be able to see trip fares upfront on UberFLASH before requesting a ride.

UberFLASH will charge a base fare of $3 with a rate of 45 cents per kilometre and 20 cents per minute.

(SCREENCAP: ComfortDelgo website)

In comparison, the metered flag-down fare for ComfortDelGro taxi services ranges from $3.20 to $3.90, with a rate of $0.22 to $0.30 for every subsequent 400m thereafter or less up to 10km, depending on the type of taxi. Additionally, an extra $2.30 or $3.30 is charged when riders book a normal four-seater.

(SCREENCAP: ComfortDelGro website)

UberFLASH – which has been launched in Malaysia and Thailand – is Uber’s answer to competitor Grab’s JustGrab, a service which pools both private-hire cars and taxis. It is similarly subjected to dynamic pricing.

JustGrab allows riders to book from a fleet comprising of HDT Singapore Taxi, Premier Taxis, Prime Taxi, SMRT Taxi, Trans-Cab and GrabCar driver-partners.

Launched in March last year, JustGrab charges a base fare of $2.50 with a rate of 50 cents per kilometre and 16 cents per minute.

(SOURCE: Uber blog)

Speaking at the conference, Ang Wei Neng, ComfortDelGro Taxi Chief Executive, said UberFLASH is the “first of many collaborative efforts” between the two companies.

Last December, ComfortDelGro inked its single largest deal to date in a $642 million deal to buy a 51 per cent stake in Uber Singapore’s wholly-owned car rental subsidiary, Lion City Holdings. The deal is pending regulatory approval. Lion City Holdings runs Lion City Rentals with a fleet of about 14,000 vehicles.

Declining to reveal the number of ComfortDelGro drivers that have signed on to join UberFLASH, Uber Singapore general manager Warren Tseng said the company has seen a “tremendous amount of interest from the drivers”, and will be activating more existing drivers “over the next weeks and months”.

ComfortDelGro currently has a fleet of 13,500 cabs.

Frankie Chew, 49, who has been a driver with ComfortDelGro for 20 years and takes eight to 10 bookings per day on average, said in Mandarin, “With UberFLASH, riders will have more choices with shorter waiting time. Drivers will have more jobs and I look forward to it increasing my income.”

ComfortDelGro drivers like Chew will be subjected to a 10 per cent commission cut by Uber. The cut for Uber drivers, however, will remain at 20 per cent.

James Chin, 32, who has been an Uber driver for eight months and drives an average of five to six days a week, remains upbeat about UberFLASH, despite competition from his ComfortDelGro counterparts.

“Ultimately, we are looking at more riders down the road…I am quite positive that there will be more demand (across the board),” said Chin.

Related stories:

ComfortDelGro acquires controlling stake in Uber Singapore’s car rental subsidiary for US$218M

Singapore’s ComfortDelGro buys majority stake in Uber unit