Uber, Ola compete to take users on motorcycle rides in India

The motorcycle is cheaper conveyance in the country than even the three-wheeler auto rickshaw

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Uber tests a motorcycle ride in India on March 3, 2016

Credit: Uber

In a bid to expand the market they address in India, Uber Technologies and arch Indian rival Ola have launched on the same day pilots of a smartphone app-based service for booking motorcycle rides.

Both operators of ride-hailing apps launched their pilots Thursday in Bangalore, which besides having price-conscious users, has frequent traffic jams that could be more easily negotiated by two-wheeled vehicles.

To address more segments of the market than their traditional offerings like sedans and smaller cars, both ANI Technologies' Ola and Uber previously launched services through their apps for rides on the three-wheeler auto rickshaw, an ubiquitous sight on India’s roads. Uber suspended the auto rickshaw service in December, presumably because of stiff competition from local operators.

By offering motorbike rides through their apps, the companies haven’t invented a new mode of paid transport. Motorbike “pilots,” as the riders are called, have been offering paid rides on the pillions of their motorcycles in a number of locations like Goa for over 40 years.

Uber launched last month a pilot of its motorbike service in Bangkok.

Ola’s “Bike Taxis” are being offered at an introductory fare of 2 rupees per kilometer and 1 rupee per minute of trip time, with a minimum fare of 30 rupees (US$0.44). The two-wheeler transportation option comes with the same experience as booking a taxi on the Ola app with driver details displayed upfront, live tracking and payment using its Ola Money mobile wallet, the operator said. All pillion riders will be provided with helmets as mandated by the local government, Ola added.

Uber’s version of the motorcycle ride, called uberMoto offers both scooter and motorcycle rides with fares at 3 rupees a kilometer. The company said the new service, like its carpooling offering, is another step to help "cut congestion in Bangalore by getting people out of cars when they don’t need to use them." The minimum fare for a ride is 15 rupees. Uber said it would extend UberMoto's coverage over time.

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