Grab wants to help you feel less lost when getting to your pick-up point


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A new feature, called Venues, uses pictures and words to guide commuters from where they are to the pick-up point they had indicated on the map. SINGAPORE: Ever made a booking on the ride-hailing Grab app, only to realise you are unsure where the pick-up point is? Grab’s data flagged this as problem not just for commuters but for drivers as well, leading to longer wait times and cancellations, Mr Ajay Bulusu, the regional head of Mapping Operations at Grab, told CNA in an interview on Thursday (Apr 4).

“Our data shows that people open our app in indoor locations like malls to make their bookings,” Mr Bulusu said. “And when this happens, we’ve found that drivers’ wait time becomes higher and cancellation rates are higher.”

He said, on average, the wait time can increase by 5 per cent to 15 per cent, while cancellation rates also go up by 5 to 10 per cent. It is also a challenge for tourists who may have little knowledge of the common pick-up points at the places they are at – particularly for malls like VivoCity or the Singapore Sports Hub, where there are multiple pick-up points, he said. Mr Bulusu, who is from India, shared a personal anecdote of how he had left his parents after helping them book a ride at VivoCity. “They didn’t know how to walk to the pick-up point (at the other end of the mall) when the ride came,” he recounted.To address the issue, Mr Bulusu shared that a new feature called Venues will be added to the app. It is an extension to the “little green dots” feature called Entrances which was rolled out a year ago. Entrances help commuters find their pick-up point with a dotted line on a map indicating where they are in relation to the pick-up point. Venues provide step-by-step instructions of how to navigate to that point when an arrow icon near the pick-up point on the map is clicked

For example, at VivoCity, which Grab’s data identified as one of the more complex places for picking up passengers, there would be visual and text guides to help people get to their chosen pick-up points.These routes are worked out by dedicated map teams in each of Grab’s markets.

On average, it takes the team about five to six hours to survey a location, gather information and take pictures, as well as the writing of the directions, Mr Bulusu explained. In Singapore, a team of four worked on the initiative. They have mapped out about “50-plus” locations here aside from VivoCity, such as Changi Airport, VivoCity, Ion Orchard and Singapore Sports Hub, the executive said.

More than 3,000 man-hours have gone into the feature which will be gradually launched in Singapore and other markets from Apr 9. The full roll-out here will be done by mid-April, he said.

Mr Bulusu acknowledged that the process currently is labour-intensive. But once the first phase is completed and a better idea is had of how people are using the feature, it will be easier to scale and include some automation and crowdsourcing into the process, he added.

For instance, users may be able to share their preferred pick-up points at their residences, such as at condominiums, and easiest ways to get there, he said.

“We hope to help passengers locate pick up locations seamlessly, and to become a virtual guide for them, especially in complex and unfamiliar locations,” Mr Bulusu said.


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