Ride-sharing app SWAT offers S$5 flat fares, with conditions
SWAT is hoping to give Uber and Grab a run for their money, by charging commuters a flat fare of S$5 no matter the distance of their rides
SINGAPORE — A locally developed on-demand ride-sharing app called SWAT is hoping to give Uber and Grab a run for their money, by charging commuters a flat fare of S$5 no matter the distance of their rides.
However, there are conditions: The rides need to be booked at least 30 minutes in advance or pre-booked the night before by 10pm. Commuters need to walk a distance – no more than 300m – to pre-designated waiting areas that include bus stops, taxi stands and other landmarks. They also have to share their rides with others.
For now, pick-ups and drop-offs are also limited to a zone that covers the North, Central and South. This stretches from areas such as Ang Mo Kio to Kallang, Orchard, Raffles Place, and Tanjong Pagar and Marina South at the other end.
The SWAT service operates in the morning peak hours of between 7am and 10am during weekdays only. It also promises that travelling time will be no more than 10 minutes longer than a taxi ride.
The company behind the app, Ministry of Movement Pte Ltd, said that it has analysed “millions of commuters’ data” to identify repeated group travel patterns, and as a result optimises both vehicle routes and passenger pick-ups to generate the “most efficient route” for all.
The technology allows the app to add new passengers without affecting the estimated time of arrival for existing passengers onboard, said founder Lin Shijing.
The service, which uses 13-seater Toyota Hiace High Roof vans, started on Aug 29 with seven drivers, said Mr Lin. It now has 15 drivers, and the number will be increased to 35 by early next year.
The number of users for the app, which is now in its beta phase, has grown to more than 1,000, in three weeks, said Mr Lin.
He declined to comment on how the drivers are paid.
The SWAT app comes after the Beeline app -- a similar on-demand service that matches users and private bus operators through route suggestions from users -- was launched by the Infocomm Development Authority last year.
Beeline has an average of 20 to 25 passengers per route, with about 15 pre-determined routes per day.
Mr Lin said that SWAT has an edge over Beeline or even other apps, as its passengers “will never face the problem of having drivers rejecting or cancelling your ride”.
“A distinctive factor is that our drivers do not get to accept or reject a ride. This is a key requirement because ... the sequence of pick-ups and drop- offs are orchestrated to ensure maximum efficiency,” said Mr Lin, refering to the company’s technology that does real time route calculations.
Transport analysts say the SWAT service could fill a niche in the market.
“For commuters during peak hour, this type of service could be attractive, as they don’t want to face uncertainty over whether they can book a taxi, or Uber/Grab,”said National University of Singapore transport analyst, Professor Lee Der Horng, referring to the ability to pre-book the SWAT ride.
“But if they are sensitive about the overall quality and comfort of the journey, and the travel time, then taxis and the other apps are the competing alternatives,” he added.
Transport expert Walter Theseira, a senior lecturer at SIM University, said such apps raise regulatory questions in the long run if they gain much popularity.
“If such services run the same route as public bus services, it may result in the risk of lowering demand for the public bus services, and hence lowering the revenue base. We have to ask ourselves if we really want that,” he added.
Commuter Jessie Tan, a business owner, said she would probably not try out the SWAT service.
“If I need to walk a distance to the waiting point, and share the ride with strangers, I might as well take the train. And they say the maximum delay (as compared to taxi) is 10 minutes, but you will never know,” said the 36-year-old.
However, Mr Jeremy Ng, 35, is so optimistic about the service that he and six other residents at his condominium in Seletar Hills have made a special arrangement with SWAT.
They started using the service on Tuesday, which will take them daily to their destinations in Orchard, Raffles City and Tanjong Pagar.
The service is free for them this week, but each resident will start paying S$5 each from next week.
“I think it looks promising. It’s faster than taking the bus, almost as fast as the taxi, and for only S$5!” said the financial consultant.
Following the beta stage, the areas under the SWAT service will be expanded, as will the timings, said Mr Lin. The app is aiming to be available during off-peak, evening-peak, as well as graveyard hours.
The company is also looking to expand to Hong Kong and Japan, he added.