GrabTaxi Co-founders Anthony Tan (left) and Hooi Ling Tan (right).

GrabTaxi Co-founders Anthony Tan (left) and Hooi Ling Tan (right).

GrabTaxi has built an extensive ride-sharing infrastructure in Southeast Asia since being founded in 2012.

With a presence in six countries and 28 cities, a fleet of 160,000 drivers, and nine million app downloads, the Singapore-headquartered company is now working to introduce a stronger social element with its latest feature, GrabHitch, announced today by Co-founders Anthony Tan and Hooi Ling Tan in a business update.

Targeting drivers and passengers who share similar, if not identical, routes, GrabHitch will require both parties to log in to the service via Facebook. They will then be able to see each other’s profiles and whether they share mutual friends.

If the driver’s journey matches more than one potential passenger, the driver will decide which one to pick up.

“We’re moving from what used to be a transactional relationship to a relationship that is a lot more real. One that requires and creates friendships and bonds,” said Anthony Tan to the gathering of media.

Adding to her Co-founder’s explanation, Hooi Ling Tan said: “It’s essentially car-pooling on steroids.”

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Couples going on dates, concert goers, football fans going to a match at the National Stadium or individuals commuting to work — as long as they involve a journey from and to the same location — are examples of people who, and situations which, can benefit from GrabHitch.

The feature is now recruiting drivers for its launch in Singapore by the end of the year.

To enhance the safety of riders, GrabTaxi will require potential drivers to provide documentation including driving license, vehicle registration, and insurance for GrabHitch.

Credit card details will also be required for payment — through GrabPay, the cashless credit card option available in the GrabTaxi app — and as an additional layer of identification and security.

The cost of the journey will be calculated based on its distance and the user will be able to view the cost before deciding whether to take up the ride.

“Owning a car is not cheap. From a driver’s perspective, it helps [alleviate] the cost of the journey. From the passenger’s perspective, those who are used to using public transportation, they will now get the comfort of door-to-door transportation at a cost of slightly higher than what they are used to pay [for buses and trains] today,” said Anthony Tan.

Drivers will be only able to accept up to two rides a day adhering to Singapore regulations, which also dictate that the payment received should only be to cover the expenses incurred during the ride and not for monetary profit.

Passengers can pre-book a ride seven days in advance and up to 15 minutes before pickup, by entering a pickup location and destination. Drivers and passengers will be notified when a successful match of the route is made.

Also Read: Can GrabTaxi trump Uber in Southeast Asia?

GrabHitch adds to GrabTaxi’s array of services, including the eponymous GrabTaxi, GrabBike, GrabCar and GrabExpress.

Emphasising the company’s devotion to creating ‘social value’ on top of economic value, Anthony Tan aims to better utilise the “two to three empty seats” for each of the 500,000 to 600,000 cars (according to the Land Transport Authority, there were over 536,000 private cars in 2014) on the road.

“There will be less congestion and less carbon footprint. If we can make this (GrabHitch) work, Singapore will be a better place,” said Anthony Tan.

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