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By Daphne J. Magturo, Reporter

Metro Manila next for carpooling app

Posted on February 10, 2016

EUROPEAN carpooling app Wunder is setting foot in the Philippines this week, saying it will help car owners recover fuel costs while charging fares that are “four times cheaper” than those of close competitors.

Worsening gridlock along Metro Manila’s main roads had prompted the government to encourage carpooling as a palliative scheme. -- AFP
“This week, Wunder is opening its community in Manila...,” Wunder Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer Samuel Baker said in an e-mail yesterday.

“Wunder is a mobile app that allows people in large cities to fill the empty seats in their car by sharing a ride with neighbors headed the same direction.”

Over 20,000 people in Quezon City use a car to commute to the southern part of Metro Manila -- especially Makati City -- and 65% of them drive by themselves, according to a recent survey by the Germany-based app.

Majority or 92% of commuters would be “comfortable” sharing a ride with a person they met through an app, but only 32% personally know someone who carpools.

“Drivers take a small detour and passengers help cover the cost of the trip, amounting to approximately P60 for a 15-kilometer trip, or approximately the price of public transportation,” Mr. Baker said.

Wunder estimates that an average household in Metro Manila spends over P20,000 on fuel every year.

A driver sharing a ride to work and back home “could make an extra P2,000 per month, essentially covering the cost of your fuel.”

“Wunder drivers, who unlike professional drivers, share one or two rides a day [and] accept a convenient detour in exchange for sharing the cost of the trip with their passengers,” Mr. Baker explained.

“As a result, going to work with Wunder is at least four times cheaper than so-called ride-sharing apps like Uber and is significantly more convenient than the alternative of taking the bus.”

Sought for comment, Karun Arya, communications lead for South Asia and India of Uber Systems, Inc., replied: “Haven’t heard about this company so [it] would be premature to comment.”

“But assuming they have got all the necessary licenses, accreditation and approvals from the DoTC (Department of Transportation and Communications) and LTFRB (Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board), competition is good for the industry,” Mr. Arya said in an e-mail yesterday.

Taxi operators shared this view.

“If they plan to operate here then they have to get a franchise from the LTFRB. They should comply with what the law demands,” Philippine National Taxi Operators Association President Jesus Manuel “Bong” C. Suntay said in a telephone interview yesterday.

“Demand for taxi cabs will weaken again because of added competition. But we have to wait for them (Wunder) to operate first before we decide how we will respond to this.”

The UV Express Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines had yet to respond to a request for comment.

The LTFRB itself said the company “has not made any contact” with regulators yet. “We will look into the business model of Wunder whether it will be considered as a transportation network company so that we can determine if it falls under our regulation,” LTFRB Chairman Winston M. Ginez said in a mobile phone reply yesterday, while LTFRB Board Member Antonio Ariel E. Inton, Jr. said in a separate telephone interview that the agency “will just wait” for Wunder to approach the agency.

To ensure safety, Wunder provides a “transparent profile and rating system” where other carpoolers evaluate their fellows and provide feedback.

“Safety is also a top priority and community members themselves have ultimately proven to be the best judges of who they feel comfortable sharing rides with on the way to work,” Wunder’s Mr. Baker said.

Cash payment will be used initially, but the company is looking at eventually introducing an online payment option.

“Unlike professional drivers who make an income driving others as a service for many hours a day, Wunder carpoolers only recover basic costs such as fuel for rides they are already taking to work and back home,” Mr. Baker added.

Wunder is founded in Germany in 2013 by Gunnar Froh, who also launched the international expansion of online home-sharing service Airbnb. The carpooling app now has more than 200,000 members in European cities, such as Budapest, Warsaw, Prague and Istanbul, according to its Web site.