Uber, the ride-hailing service that has had a significant impact on the taxi industry around the globe, has announced an experimental program involving a huge shift in transportation. For the first time ever, Uber is offering rides on two-wheeled vehicles, motorbikes to be specific. But don’t expect a motorcycle to pick you up the next time you use the Uber app in San Francisco or New York City, as this new option is specifically for Bangkok, Thailand at the moment.
Dubbed UberMOTO, the pilot program will give Uber users in the city the option to request a motorbike within the app. Beyond that, the service is basically the same: a driver will come to their location to pick them up, and they’re required to have a second helmet in addition to passing the same background and safety checks as those with cars.
The reason for the motorcycle service option will make perfect sense to anyone who has travelled in South East Asia. While cars are a common sight, the narrow, busy streets, sometime combined with poor traffic signals, often result is big, long-lasting traffic jams. Motorbikes are popular not only because they take up less space to park, but because they can easily slip between cars.
Motorcycle taxi services already thrive in Thailand, as well as Vietnam, the Philippines, Singapore, Indonesia, and India, so it reasonable to expect Uber to do the same to better adapt to the region. UberMOTO has its own affordable prices, with the base rate for rides coming out to $0.28, with $0.10 per kilometer and $0.02 per minute.
Uber says it is considering rolling out the motorcycle service to other emerging markets, however it will wait to see how well it does in Bangkok before making a decision. A similar program was launched last year in India, using auto rickshaws instead of cars, but it failed to take off and was shut down eight months later.