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Common Tread

uberMOTO is a thing now

Mar 09, 2016

The wildest rides of my life have come by way of three vehicles: motorcycle, police cruiser, and taxicab.

The first vehicle I had to pilot myself, but the others I experienced as a passenger. Some lucky souls in certain countries can now forego the Crown Vic experience and hire a motorcyclist for transport. All they need to do is pull up the uberMOTO app.

I'm speaking about Uber, of course. Uber is an online transportation network service. They've developed a mobile app that allows smartphone users to request a trip. That request is linked up with private individuals who then use their own vehicles to fulfill the request.

Uber's a bit different from conventional taxis in several ways. Uber pricing is tailored to demand, rather than being fixed. Another difference is Uber's integration of several services to ensure those requesting rides have vehicles that are tailored to their requests. For instance, Uber BLACK only sends black, high-end luxury sedans. UberX is the economy option; older cars and low fares are the hallmarks of that service.

Now, in the cities of Bangalore, India and Bangkok, Thailand, uberMOTO has been rolled out as low-cost, high-efficiency travel to move people through traffic, as opposed to being in it. The service started March 3 in India, while uberMOTO kicked off in Thailand a littler earlier, on Feb. 24.

According to Uber's own press release about the Bangalore rollout, "uberMOTO is another step to help cut congestion in Bangalore by getting people out of cars when they don’t need to use them, and by encouraging motorbike drivers to share their ride. It follows the launch of Uber’s carpooling service, which is designed to get more people into fewer cars. By using today’s transportation infrastructure more efficiently, Uber’s technology can help the Government of Karnataka cut traffic and congestion at no extra cost to taxpayers."

While I was digging around for some information on this story, I found a firsthand account of an uberMOTO ride taken by an OfficeChai journalist. While it sounds significantly different from the American Uber experience, it does sound like the idea is a sound one for both Uber employees and customers. I thought it was pretty interesting, but I like adventures. The author sounded significantly less enthused.

From its inception, Uber has taken some heat in Bangalore. A few bikes were impounded due to laws banning private vehicles from commercial transport. This isn't a new occurrence for Uber, however. Some U.S. cities and states have banned the service. Some jurisdictions restrict the economy version, UberX, and others prohibit Uber from operating entirely. Globally, some cities and countries have banned some or all forms of Uber's services as well. Uber has suspended operations in some locations, and in others they have continued conducting business.

Their Bangkok launch of uberMOTO appears to be going a bit better, though. Customers appear satisfied with the service, as the above tweet indicates. Bangkok is a city that's heavily congested with traffic and has many two-wheelers on the road. uberMOTO offers passengers who request a ride the name and picture of the motorcycle operator as well as some information about the bike. Drivers will provide a helmet for passengers, and standard Uber car features apply, including GPS tracking, Uber's two-way driver/passenger feedback rating system, and the ability to share trip details with friends and family. In an article published by New York Magazine recently, “Woody” Sriwara gives an account of life as an uberMOTO driver.

Uber riders.
Paid riding with sidesaddle passengers? Sounds like a reasonably fun job to me. Uber photo.
“My uncle is a motcy — a regular motorcycle-taxi driver — and I used to drive in his place whenever he couldn’t work. Motcy drivers wear numbered orange vests and can only pick up in particular areas. I’m an emcee and a country singer and mostly work at night, so I thought, Why not make money during the day while I’m running errands? So far, I’ve picked up six people. I had a passenger that was going to a restaurant I like in Silom, and after having a quick chat, I found out it’s the owner’s daughter. You never know who you’ll meet! I’m a lot more cautious when I have a female passenger because they sit sidesaddle, so I have to be aware of that while maneuvering in and out of traffic. I don’t talk much during these rides because it’s hard to hear, and there’s also too much dust and pollution. I’ve had cats run out in the street and I’ve been bitten by stray dogs a bunch of times. Once I saw a really big snake on the road.”

Sounds pretty cool to me. I'd like to give it a whirl, if the money was decent. Giving rides, that is. Although if I ever do rustle up a smartphone, I might request a motorsickle ride, too. I love lanesplitting and at the very tail end of that video, I heard some two-stroke racket. Perhaps I can talk Lance into sending Spurg and me on a fact-finding mission to Asia.

It can't be worse than a ride in a cop car or a just-barfed-in taxicab.