Ever since Grab announced that late night GrabHitch and GrabShare services would be discontinued from Oct 1 due to safety concerns, passengers have been looking for a cheap and viable alternative.
The problem is that GrabHitch and GrabShare are around 35-40% cheaper than JustGrab or regular taxi fares, forcing travellers to empty their pockets whenever the clock hits 1 AM, all the way to 5 AM.
Luckily someone started a Telegram group called SG Hitch late last month (Feb 2019) which functions as a platform to “provide a cheaper alternative [to riders] with the demolition of late-night GrabHitch services”.
Currently, the group has just surpassed 6,000 members with over hundreds of ride offerings a day.
Here’s how it works
Hitchers can leave requests on the group with their pick-up and drop-off location, time and number of passengers on the group chat and if a Driver if they’re able to fulfil their request, they would PM the hitcher to discuss prices.
Drivers can also leave requests for Hitchers in a similar manner.
The group only functions as an intermediary between Hitcher and Driver; there are no platform fees or fixed prices. So Driver and Hitcher have to negotiate and find an agreeable price, if not they can look somewhere else.
Drivers might also choose to offer rides for free because maybe, a genuine smile is priceless.
Although the group administrators do not directly earn money from managing the group, it appears that a cryptocurrency wallet called Coinmoola sponsors them.
Is it safe?
Because the platform is so new, there is no safety track record. Drivers and Hitchers are expected to use the platform at their own risk.
Without an intermediary like Grab, there is no way to verify drivers or passengers, or whether or not they meet specific requirements like owning a drivers license, have two years of experience, drive their own car, etc.
Additionally, you would lose any avenue to direct any grievances and concerns that may arise from using the “service”.
However, up to this point, other than the occasional scuffle, there doesn’t appear to be any problem reported on the chat itself. (Although even if there were, no one would necessarily tend to them and they would get lost in the deluge of messages).
Is it Illegal?
It might be illegal. The law requires GrabCar drivers to own a PDVL (Private Hire Car Driver’s Vocational Licence) in order to carry passengers since 2017.
However, those who are still applying for a PDVL or are not planning to own one can still drive as a GrabHitch driver. The fine print is that they can legally only make a maximum of 2 trips a day, just like everyone else.
The law is meant for citizens to earn a bit of cash from their private driving arrangements (e.g. fetching your colleagues to and fro work), while not abusing it.
This means SG Hitch drivers need without PDVLs need to comply with the above regulations or could face penalties (details in the previous link).
With that said, this new platform is fascinating indeed. It shows the power of a decentralised platform, and its ability to disrupt an industry heavily monopolised by one company.