New ride-sharing apps Hopsee, Ryde arrive in Hong Kong to challenge Uber and GoGoVan

It used to be called ‘car-pooling’: now, there’s an app for that

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 February, 2016, 4:19pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 February, 2016, 8:16am

Hongkongers can now save money on their commutes to work and help the environment courtesy of ride-sharing apps such as Hopsee and Ryde.

Carpooling is not a new concept. Ride-hailing companies like Didi Chuxing Technology in China and San Francisco-based Uber have launched such services in some of their markets, but these are not currently available in Hong Kong.

Ryde and Hopsee hope to plug this market gap.

Hopsee, a taxi ride-sharing app by Hong Kong company IC Studio, launched earlier this month with the aim of connecting taxi passengers going the same way.

“There are 18,138 taxis in Hong Kong, yet there are over 1 million people in Hong Kong using taxis every day,” said Rafal Czerniawksi, co-founder of Hopsee.

“We are facing ever-increasing difficulty in terms of catching a taxi ride.”

Users can input their start and end destination into Hopsee and the app suggests possible matches in real-time. From there, users can decide to join an existing ride, and a chat-based interface will pop up allowing both Hopsee users to decide on a place to meet and share a taxi.

If there are no matches for a route, users can also create a new ride and allow others to join them. Passengers have full autonomy over how they should split the taxi fare.

Rafal Czerniawski and fellow co-founder Nelson Cheng came up with the idea of a platform for taxi ride-sharing while they were working in a bank.

They later left their jobs to start IC Studio and Hopsee.

“We noticed that there would be a massive queue during peak hours at the taxi stands after work,” said Czerniawski.

“Most people can probably share a taxi, but people aren’t doing that,” he added.

Cheng said that apart from connecting passengers and helping them to save on taxi fare costs, Hopsee was also created to help reduce traffic on the road.

“[Ride-sharing] helps reduce traffic, which is something good for the whole community,” said Cheng.

Hopsee is currently free for users, but the founders do not rule out implementing a monthly subscription-based model once the app gains a substantial amount of users.

But Hopsee is not the only service in Hong Kong which hopes to capitalise on the potential of the ride-sharing market in Hong Kong.

Singapore-based Ryde said on Tuesday that it will launch its carpooling app in Hong Kong during the second quarter of the year.

Unlike Hopsee, Ryde does not target ride-sharing between taxi passengers. Instead, the app connects drivers of private cars and passengers who need a ride in real-time, according to Ryde CEO Terence Zou.

In its home market Singapore, Ryde has already amassed 30,000 users, with an aim to hit 150,000 users by the end of 2016. Zou believes that carpooling in Hong Kong could also be a hit.

Hong Kong has about 520,000 private vehicles on its roads, according to data from the Census and Staistics Department.

But a 2014 report on road traffic congestion in the city suggests the number of daily trips taken in private vehicles is just 1.67 million, compared to 12.52 million daily trips on public transport such as buses and the MTR.

“Every month we successfully match thousands of people on our network in Singapore,” said Zou. “We are ready to bring this proven model to Hong Kong as the two cities have similar population densities with high smartphone penetration rates … with similar traffic conditions and regulations.”

When passengers input their pick-up and destination points into Ryde, they are matched with a driver going the same way.

The trip details show the passenger an estimated cost of the journey, calculated based on distance and other factors such as car depreciation and fuel costs, so that passengers can help to offset the cost of the ride.

But Zou said that while the cost of the ride is displayed on the app, drivers are reminded to take into account and follow local regulations around accepting payments for rides.

In Hong Kong, hire car permits are required for owners who hope to ferry passengers for payment, according to the Transport Department. This renders private car-hailing services from Uber illegal in the city.

However, there are currently no regulations specifically targeting carpooling in Hong Kong, with the government recommending residents to form a “car pool with friends or colleagues” as a greener way to travel.

“We believe that Ryde can help ease road congestion and provide a more sustainable alternative,” Zou said.

Users interested in signing up for the Ryde platform can now get a one-year subscription for free, but following that annual subscriptions will cost HK$150.