Convenient, but with many problems… Is Japan really going to adopt it? Lights and Shadows of Ride-Sharing in Thailand, an Advanced Country | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Convenient, but with many problems… Is Japan really going to adopt it? Lights and Shadows of Ride-Sharing in Thailand, an Advanced Country

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Since former Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide (74) proposed the idea, the ban on “ridesharing” has been debated among big-name politicians and industry groups. Against the backdrop of a nationwide cab shortage, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (66) reiterated at the current Diet session that he would like to consider the idea, which has accelerated the movement toward its introduction.

Ridesharing refers to the practice of ordinary drivers giving rides to people to their destinations for a fee. Uber” in the U.S. and “DiDi” in China are the two world leaders, but in Southeast Asia, “Grab” from Malaysia holds an overwhelming share, and ridesharing has become an indispensable part of the lives of travelers, expatriates, and local people, including latecomers to the app.

A large number of transportation systems are in disarray in the streets of Thailand.

In Thailand, which is known as an “advanced ridesharing country,” ridesharing has successfully “coexisted” with the existing transportation infrastructure, and “Grab” has become so powerful that “Uber” has withdrawn from the market. In Thailand, ridesharing has successfully “coexisted” with the existing transportation infrastructure. The author, who has used ridesharing services around the world, reports on the actual situation in advanced ridesharing countries.

Bangkok, which was once given the dishonorable title of “the world’s most congested city” by the BBC, has four trains running through the city, centering on the BTS and MRT, and the number of trains in operation is not much different from those in major Japanese cities. The transportation options are quite wide, with motorcycle cabs, tuk-tuks, and local buses available for short distances for about 30 baht (about 120 yen). Cabs, of which there were said to be over 80,000 before Corona, are inexpensive, with the first ride starting at 35 baht (about 140 yen). Against this backdrop, why has ridesharing expanded?

A Japanese businessman who has lived in Bangkok for more than five years says, “Traffic congestion is too much.

One reason is that traffic congestion is so bad that taking a cab is likely to be more expensive than expected. Ridesharing is safe to use because the price is fixed. Another is convenience. With just one app, you can make a vehicle dispatch. When I talk with expatriates, immigrants, and other people of Japanese descent, I find that most of them “ride-share for most of their transportation. Tipping is also flexible, and in recent years, it has become popular among travelers as well.

Thailand is a relatively safe country in Southeast Asia for cabs, but there are still many problems such as being refused a ride, being overcharged without using the meter, and not being able to reach one’s destination. On the other hand, some point out that traffic congestion is getting worse because of the explosion of ridesharing. ……”

In fact, when the author used “Grab” in Bangkok, he was presented with more than 10 options simply by entering his destination. In addition, the user can specify a very specific type of vehicle, such as motorcycle cabs, women-only cars, premium cars, cabs, pet-friendly cars, VIP cars, and vans. The range of choices for users is quite wide, and they can easily select one at the touch of a button. When we asked a Grab driver why so many people still choose Grab, he replied, “It’s more expensive than a cab, but it’s still a popular choice.

Grab usage screen. Fares are determined at the time of dispatch according to the route to the destination and type of vehicle.

The number of drivers has increased dramatically since around 2006, and the time it takes to get picked up has shortened. The cars have also been upgraded from before. Not only foreigners but also Thai people are using the service quite frequently. However, there is a feeling that “Grab” has increased its market share too much and the rates have become too high. The daily sales range from 1,500 baht (about 6,000 yen) to 2,000 baht (about 8,000 yen). In Bangkok, where traffic jams are common, the number of rides is inevitably limited, so this is a bottleneck for ridesharing.

Pattaya Beach is about a two-hour bus ride from Bangkok. Pattaya, a world-famous tourist destination, does not have a well-developed train system, but songtaew (shared-ride vans) run through the city even late at night. Compared to Bangkok, transportation in Pattaya is more limited, and travelers naturally resort to cabs and ride-sharing. I requested a ride from my hotel via Bolt, and a driver arrived within two minutes. The vehicle showed the driver’s license, and I was told that he is a “dual-income driver” who works another job during the day.

This is the Bolt usage screen. You can communicate with the driver using the message function.

In Pattaya, Bolt is more popular than Grab. Since there are many tourists from Europe, Bolt is familiar to Europeans, and the low rates are probably attractive. Rideshare didn’t make any money at all with the COVID-19 crisis, but now it’s doing well enough to sell 3,000 baht (about 12,000 yen) in one day during the high season. When giving rides to overseas customers who don’t understand the language, the users must be anxious, but the drivers are anxious too. So the fact that everything is done through an app is a relief for us as well.”

Ridesharing had long been regarded as an illegal activity in Thailand due to a series of protests that “ridesharing leads to lower wages for cab drivers. However, the service was continued due to high consumer demand. Then, in 2009, a movement to legalize ridesharing was born and a bill was passed. Currently, there are seven ride-sharing services, including Grab and Bolt.

Many cabs line up at cab stands at airports.

A monthly comparison of the number of foreign tourists visiting Thailand and Japan shows that Thailand had approximately 2.22 million visitors in March of this year, and Japan had approximately 2.32 million in July, almost the same number as in the previous year. Considering the hospitality of Japanese cabs, which are said to be among the best in the world, it is impossible to treat ride-sharing on the same level as in Thailand, but we felt that the disruption to the transportation infrastructure caused by overtourism was more serious in Japan.

When I took a cab to the airport before returning to Japan, the driver lamented, “I was so disappointed that there was no ride-sharing.

I don’t know if ridesharing has had any impact, but I am sure that salaries are lower than they used to be. Now I’m giving rides to passengers heading to the airport like you, which has decreased dramatically, to the point where I don’t even have one pair a day.”

Although there is a plan to debate the pros and cons of lifting the ban on ridesharing in the current Diet session, the hurdles to making it a reality are still high. A veteran member of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) revealed, “There are differences of opinion even within the party.

Even within the party, there are different opinions, and my understanding is that lifting the ban on ridesharing will be difficult. I am not sure if it will be convenient from the perspective of users and tourism, if it will be based on safe transportation, what constitutes ridesharing, or if it will be considered on par with public transportation. We are still in the process of considering how to set these initial conditions.

The world is divided on the introduction of ridesharing. In this context, we felt it necessary to look at the Thai case as an example of coexistence with existing transportation infrastructure.

  • Interview, text, and photos Shimei Kurita

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