By Me and a Colleague Wed.: Uber to Launch Motorbike Service in Bangkok

The story begins:

BANGKOK—Uber Technologies Inc. is breaking into motorcycle bookings, taking its battle to win over users in Southeast Asia to the traffic-clogged streets of Bangkok.

Beginning Wednesday, users in select parts of the Thai capital will be able to open the firm’s app and summon a motorcycle driver, who will pick them up and ferry them to their destinations. The service, dubbed UberMOTO, allows riders to pay with cash or credit cards, with fares beginning at 10 Thai baht (28 U.S. cents).

Motorcycle taxis are popular in Thailand and other parts of Southeast Asia because of their low cost and their ability to cut between lanes of traffic, making it easier to navigate through gridlock.

Uber’s offering comes amid growing popularity of rivals’ motorbike-booking services in Southeast Asia. The company’s main competitor in the region, Singapore-based ride-hailing app Grab, in 2014 launched a motorbike service in nearby Vietnam. It is also available in Thailand, the Philippines in Indonesia. Grab doesn’t disclose its number of users but says its app has been downloaded more than 11 million times, up from 4.8 million in June.

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By Me Yesterday: Lyft Teams up with India’s Ola and Singapore’s GrabTaxi

The story begins:

The international alliance of Uber Technologies Inc.’s ride-hailing competitors is growing stronger.

San Francisco startup Lyft Inc. confirmed Thursday it is teaming up with Southeast Asia’s GrabTaxi Holdings Pte. Ltd. and India’s Ola to allow users of each app to hail rides from drivers of the other apps while they are traveling to the other country. Lyft and Chinese startup Didi Kuaidi Joint Co. announced a similar arrangement in September, when the Journal also reported that they were in talks with GrabTaxi and Ola.

Each service will collect payments from its own users in their native currency so that, for example, Indian visitors to the U.S. can open their Ola app to order and pay for rides on Lyft, after which Ola will remit that money to Lyft. The companies said the connected system will go live in the first quarter of next year.

The alliance will connect four services in nine countries, potentially bolstering the competitive field against the much larger Uber. Now in 350 cities around the world, Uber is currently raising up to $2.1 billion more in funding at a valuation as high as about $65 billion, according to a document reviewed by the Journal.

 

By Me Today: Uber’s Controversial ‘Surge Pricing’ in Sydney

Earlier today, I wrote:

Uber acted quickly Monday in an attempt to tamp down the latest controversy to hit the company, saying it is offering passengers free rides amid an unfolding siege at a Sydney café after complaints that rates had soared to exorbitant levels.

The reversal came just a short time after the ride-sharing app drew criticism on Twitter for saying it was raising prices to attract more drivers to the city’s central business district, where at least one gunman had taken hostages in a cafe and placed an Islamic flag in the window, sparking concerns a terrorist attack was under way.

The fare uptick was the result of an Uber policy called surge pricing, in which an algorithm charges customers more money during times of high demand — as was apparently the case in Sydney. Some users reported that the minimum fare had skyrocketed to $100 Australian dollars ($82) for a ride.

Click through for more. And for updates about the situation in Sydney, see our live blog.

Meanwhile, I neglected to mention that I recently wrote about Uber’s regulatory issues in Southeast Asia.