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On-demand mobility in Singapore: Key players in the market [free access]

March 1, 2020

On-demand mobility utilises technology to provide public transportation solutions, shared mobility services, and delivery services via a connected and integrated multi-modal network. In the next few years, advancements in on-demand mobility will make private car ownership less of a necessity and more of a luxury. The two primary uses of on-demand mobility are passenger transportation and last-mile package delivery. Figure 1 depicts the key factors driving the growth of on-demand mobility.

 

This is Part 1 of a two-part feature, which focuses on on-demand mobility in Singapore.

 

Figure 1: Key factors driving growth of on-demand mobility services

Source: Global Mass Transit Research

 

On-demand mobility in Singapore

 

Singapore is focusing on developing an accessible modal system for its aging population, providing last-mile connectivity solutions, promoting transit signal priority techniques, increasing public transit capacity, and improving public transit reliability and expanding services to meet future demand. Table 1 highlights some of the major initiatives taken by the Government of Singapore to promote on-demand mobility. 

 

Table 1: Major initiatives taken by Government of Singapore

Autonomous shuttles in Sentosa

 

  • In June 2018, the Ministry of Transport (MOT) and ST Engineering commenced the on-road testing of autonomous shuttles along a 1-km road in Tanjong Beach, Sentosa. In 2019, a three-month trial was conducted along a 5-km route on the island. Visitors were able to use their smartphones to hail these shuttles.
  • This trial was conducted to obtain insights into and information about how technology can be deployed to strengthen intra-town connectivity and to enhance mobility for commuters, specifically the elderly and people with disabilities.

On-demand public bus trial

 

  • The first part of a six-month on-demand public bus service (ODPB) operational trial commenced on December 17, 2018. This trial was designed to explore the feasibility  of dynamic routing and to use matching algorithms to optimise limited resources.
  • The trial was aimed at offering more seamless and convenient bus trips for commuters during periods of  low or unpredictable ridership. Commuters were able to request for pick-ups and drop-offs at any bus stop within the defined geo-fence area through a mobile app.

Beeline

  • An open, cloud-based smart mobility platform was developed in 2015 to provide data-driven shuttle bus services for commuters. This platform allowed commuters to book a seat through a smartphone app, on buses provided by private bus operators.
  • This initiative was developed by the Government Technology Agency of Singapore (GovTech), in collaboration with the Land Transport Authority (LTA), to engender a culture of crowd-sourcing among citizens and to empower them to play a part in optimising transport route planning.
  • Beeline open-sourced its code in 2017. Riding on the open marketplace and data analytics capabilities that Beeline provides, private transport operators and tech start-ups could also easily integrate their services with the platform and build their own applications.

Source: Smart Nation Singapore 

 

Key initiatives launched during 2016–2018

SWAT, a start-up which is a part of the Goldbell engineering and transport group, has operated on-demand bus services in Singapore since 2016. SWAT was one of the two firms that participated in Singapore’s Land Transport Authority’s (LTA’s) on-demand bus trial, with the other being United States-based Via Transportation Inc. SWAT’s primary focus was to work with governments so as to provide its services as part of public transport, and to assist companies with arrangements for employee transport. It is currently exploring other areas such as the use of autonomous vehicles.

 

In 2017, Grab launched GrabShuttle, which was powered by Beeline and which operated on fixed routes and timings. Meanwhile, GrabShuttle Plus, powered by Canadian technology start-up RideCo, offered dynamic bookings, similar to ride-hailing offerings from Grab. Using Beeline’s open technology platform, the GrabShuttle app enabled commuters to book and pay for seats using their credit cards and to track their buses in real time on the day of the ride. Commuters could also suggest and crowd-start new routes through the GrabShuttle app or via Grab’s website.

 

Routes were modelled based on historical, real-time, and crowd-sourced transport data, and were adaptive to changing commuter needs. Individual commuters could use GrabShuttle to book seats in advance on private buses operating along planned routes. Commuters could book their seats ahead of time and be guaranteed a ride on their preferred GrabShuttle service, giving commuters the flexibility to plan their trips in advance and book seats up to one month ahead. Commuters with a regular commuting routine could also book the same route across multiple days.  

 

Key on-demand mobility providers in Singapore

 

Prominent providers 

 

Grab: Grab Holdings Inc., formerly known as MyTeksi and GrabTaxi, is a Singapore-based ride-sharing company. In addition to transportation, the company offers food delivery and digital payments services via mobile app. The company was founded in Malaysia and later moved its headquarters to Singapore. It now operates in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Japan.

 

Gojek: Gojek is an Indonesia-based on-demand multi-service platform and digital payment technology group. It was first established in 2010. Initially, every customer was manually matched with a driver via a call centre. The Gojek app was launched in 2015. Gojek is the only company in Southeast Asia that is included in Fortune’s 50 Companies that Changed the World in 2017 and in 2019, ranked at 17 and 11, respectively.

 

ComfortDelGro: ComfortDelGro was formed in March 2003 through the merger of two land transport companies, Comfort Group and DelGro Corporation. The group is one of the largest land transport companies in the world. ComfortDelGro’s businesses include bus, taxi, rail, car rental and leasing, automotive engineering services, inspection and testing services, driving centres, non-emergency patient transport services, insurance broking services, and outdoor advertising.

 

Prominent providers of ride-sharing services in high-capacity vehicles

 

SWAT: SWAT is a smart mobility start-up that focuses on demand-responsive and ride-sharing technology in high-capacity vehicles. SWAT was founded in September 2015 and launched its on-demand bus service in Singapore the following year. The company provides on-demand employee transportation, for large corporations and industrial parks, with operations in Singapore and Vietnam. It also operates an on-demand public bus service in Australia.

 

Via Transportation Inc.: Via Transportation Inc. was launched in New York City in September 2013. Via’s technology is deployed worldwide through partner projects with public transportation agencies, private transit operators, taxi fleets, private companies, and universities. In February 2018, Via was awarded the contract to develop Singapore’s on-demand public bus service. In December 2018, Via deployed the BusGo service in Singapore with LTA. Via’s partnership with LTA in Singapore marked its entry into the Southeast Asia market.

 

Other providers

 

RYDE: RYDE is Singapore’s local ride-hailing firm which provides RYDE, a mobile application for ride-hailing, ride-sharing, and online taxi reservation. In September 2019, RYDE partnered with the second largest taxi fleet in Singapore, Trans-Cab, to allow 3,000 taxis access to private-hire bookings on its platform and to allow the taxis to access carpool bookings. 

 

MVL: Mass Vehicle Ledger (MVL), a South Korean start-up, launched TADA as a zero-commission app that uses blockchain technology to store records on matters like payments and vehicle maintenance. MVL entered Singapore in 2018. MVL has had more than 27,000 drivers and 200,000 users in Singapore since its launch.

 

FastGo: Vietnamese ride-hailing firm FastGo launched operations in Singapore in April 2019. FastGo operates in Singapore, Vietnam, and Myanmar. Unlike Grab and Gojek which provide full-fledged transport services, FastGo focuses on offering a platform to connect drivers and users.

 

RushOwl: RushOwl is a smart bus initiative founded in 2018 with the aim of providing an affordable, efficient, and timely bus solution. At present, RushOwl is deployed in serving a few high-profile routes and destinations such as the Singapore Zoo, Marina Square, and Qian Hu Fish Farm.

 

Apps for on-demand mobility in Singapore

 

Table 2 provides a list of key on-demand mobility apps in Singapore.

 

Table 2: On-demand mobility apps in Singapore 

Apps

Providers

Features

Grab

 

GRABTAXIHOLDINGS PTE. LTD.

Private car or minivan or taxi ride-hailing, ride-sharing, food delivery, parcel delivery, grocery delivery, cashless payment, e-scooter rental

Gojek 

PT GO-JEK INDONESIA

Car ride-hailing, car ride-sharing, food delivery, cashless payment

ComfortDelGro 

ComfortDelGro Corporation Limited

Taxi ride-hailing, cashless payment for in-app bookings and street hailing

RYDE

RYDE

Private car ride-hailing, car ride-sharing

TADA

MVL Foundation

Car ride-hailing

FastGo

FASTGO VIET NAM JOINSTOCK COMPANY

Private car or taxi-hailing,  cashless payment, insurance package

RushTrail 

RushOwl Singapore Pte Ltd

Bus ride-sharing

SWAT Passenger & SWATRide

Ministry of Movement Pte. Ltd (SWAT)

Ride-sharing on high-capacity vehicles

Via

Via Transportation, Inc.

Ride-sharing on high-capacity vehicles

Source: Global Mass Transit Research

 

Financial health of providers

 

In March 2018, Grab acquired Uber’s operations in Southeast Asia and Uber now holds a 27.5 per cent stake in Grab. This deal drove significant growth for Grab, which already dominated the Southeast Asian ride-hailing market, with a market share of reportedly more than 60 per cent in the region. Grab was valued at USD10 billion in its funding round towards the end of 2018, when it raised USD2 billion for its future growth. The number of users of Grab nearly doubled between 2017 and 2018, and the average daily rides have increased significantly in value from around USD2.5 to USD3.5 million in 2017, and to USD6 million in 2018.

 

Following the merger, Grab and Uber were fined by the Government of Singapore for violating anti-competition laws. In 2018, following Uber’s exit, new government regulations were introduced to increase competitiveness in Singapore’s on-demand mobility market. These regulations permitted new start-ups such as Gojek, TADA, and RYDE to enter Singapore’s ride-hailing market. In a short period, Gojek succeeded in establishing a strong hold in Singapore’s ride-hailing market. Faced with increasing competition, Grab was compelled to eliminate discount rates for its services. The removal of discounts further reduced demand for Grab’s services and cut into its profits.

 

ComfortDelGro Group continued to be an important player in Singapore despite rising operational costs and tough competition. In 2019, ComfortDelGro Group’s operating costs increased by 3.7 per cent to USD 3.5 billion in part due to the expansion in business but also due to the generally poor performance of the taxi business. Its operating profit correspondingly fell by 5.2 per cent to USD 415.8 million. The group’s revenue increased by 2.6 per cent to USD 3.9 billion, buoyed by contributions from acquisitions made in 2018.

 

On-demand mobility services for high-capacity ride-sharing could not find a firm foothold in Singapore. In June 2019, Singapore LTA announced the closure of its six-month trial of on-demand-buses that serviced the Joo Koon and Marina–Downtown areas. Despite the mileage savings observed during the trial, the LTA found that it is currently less cost-effective for on-demand public buses to be scaled up due to high technology costs. After four years of service, Beeline ceased its operation on January 1, 2020. Grab also ended operations for both GrabShuttle and GrabShuttle Plus in January 2020.

 

SWAT has continued supplying on-demand bus services to private companies in Singapore. In November 2019, SWAT raised USD10 million in Series A funding, led by the University of Tokyo Edge Capital (UTEC) 4 Limited Partnership. SWAT gained many new investors in this round, including ComfortDelGro Ventures, EDB Investments, EDB New Ventures, LKJ Capital Japan, and SMRT Momentum Ventures. Pre-Series A investors iGlobe Platinum Fund II Pte. Ltd. and the Goldbell Group reinvested in this round.

 

Future of on-demand mobility

 

The survival and viability of on-demand bus services depend on meeting the demands of commuters and travellers. If the demand is low, consumers are better off taking taxis. If the demand is high, consumers may prefer regular bus service. On-demand ride-pooling in buses can provide efficient public transport in areas where traditional fixed bus routes are not viable. Looking ahead, large-scale deployment of on-demand public buses is expected to become more cost-effective when the efficiency of their algorithms improves. On-demand service for bus systems is expected to increase when driverless buses are ready for widespread deployment.

 

The transformation of transportation services is spurred by a burgeoning urban population and rapid technological advancements. Numerous apps that make travelling easier are widely available. On-demand mobility has already become a reality in populous nations where personal car ownership is not a possibility, or is not feasible, such as India and China. Many cities have announced—and some have already partially implemented—further regulation of private car-based mobility. In 2019, some providers demonstrated truly driverless cars without backup drivers, setting new milestones in autonomous driving.

 

Also, in 2019, regulators began granting approval for drone deliveries and for electric vertical take-off and landing crafts, with these types of vehicles flying for the first time. Many cities announced their mobility visions for the future, with micro-mobility still being a nascent market. The rapid development of autonomous vehicles (AVs) in recent years has prompted many governments to explore the feasibility of using individually owned vehicles for large-scale fleet planning and for deployment as an on-demand mobility service. Singapore is pursuing its goal of being a smart and car-lite country. The city state is conducting AV trials to test the potential deployment of these vehicles.  Factors such as consumers’ preferences for convenience and privacy, and their familiarity with ride-hailing apps are shaping the planning of future car-lite towns and spurring the implementation of AV-based on-demand services.

 

(Part 2 of this write-up will be published in the April 2020 issue of the Global Mass Transit Report. It will cover micro mobility in Singapore.)