ofo bike unveils new model with enhanced security

ofo bike unveils new model with enhanced security
Lawrence Cao (L), head of ofo's APAC business, and Yu Xin, ofo's co-founder. Photo:Wee Teck Hian/TODAY
Published: 4:30 PM, May 24, 2017
Updated: 4:55 PM, May 25, 2017

SINGAPORE — Bike-sharing operator ofo is the latest in town to distribute streamlined bikes that are equipped with better features, as it released ridership figures after 100 days of operation on Wednesday (May 24).

The company from China unveiled its new fleet of redesigned bikes, called the ofo Aura 1.0, that each have a new smart lock compatible with the global positioning system (GPS) in its mobile application. The lock will sync with the app via Bluetooth and reduce the time to unlock or lock the bike to less than three seconds.

This is to enhance security, given that there was much talk about how its bikes did not have features such as a GPS locator, exposing them to issues such as theft and vandalism.

The firm’s regional manager, Ms Elin Ma, said that cases of bike theft and vandalism, which she believes is less than 1 per cent in Singapore, can be seen in China as well, and the issue could have been blown out of context here. “There is too much focus on one incident, but we are working very hard to address that issue (with the new features),” she said.

Other new features for the latest bikes include a more ergonomic design as well as an improved rear-brake system. The firm also enhanced its app to offer connectivity to Google Maps, so that users may easily locate nearby bikes.

The first batch of 500 new bikes will be rolled out progressively over a month, but the old bikes will not be phased out. The company would not say how many bikes it has put out islandwide so far, but since its debut in Singapore, it said that it has captured more than half of the bike-sharing market here, with more than 100,000 users clocking more than 20,000 bike journeys daily.  

Cost-wise, ofo also announced on Wednesday that riders would now pay S$1 an hour, capped at S$2, for the entire journey when they use the new bikes. When it started operations here in February offering rides at S$0.50 per trip — almost half the standard rate here — ofo raised eyebrows with its aggressive price-cutting strategy. 

On why it is raising rental rates now, Ms Ma told TODAY that users have given feedback for the operator to “start collecting deposits and raise the rate to encourage rider responsibility and (greater awareness) of proper bike use”.

Like its peers, oBike and Mobike, ofo is now introducing a one-time deposit of S$39 upon registration to safeguard against errant users. On other plans, the company said that it would be working closely with the Housing and Development Board (HDB) and town councils to establish more than 100 preferred parking zones within public housing estates. It also aims to release more than 1,000 bicycles across 28 different HDB estates by the end of the year. 

Launched in Beijing in 2014, ofo now has more than 100 million registered users and a fleet of more than six million bicycles in 100 cities globally.