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How Grab makes Bangkok ‘smarter’

Sep 02. 2019
Photo by Grab
Photo by Grab
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By The Nation

With a rising middle-class population, Bangkok is quickly becoming a megacity. While every city has its own set of challenges due to urbanisation and Bangkok is no exception, it has developed a strategic plan, according to Grab research.

The Ministry of Digital Economy and Society earlier this year announced the launch of “Smart City Thailand”, a concept that uses ICT to manage urbanisation based on the unique characteristics of each city to improve the quality of life and be more sustainable.

One of the key pillars of the Smart City policy is Smart Mobility, by which commuters and visitors have more flexibility and convenience thanks to increasing efficiency and connectivity of existing transportation system using Big Data technology.

Traffic congestion and pollution raise serious concerns, especially in large cities. Population growth, inefficient transportation systems and urbanisation have made today’s cities notoriously difficult to navigate, hindering their development. On average, Thais spend 24 days a year (1.5 hour a day) in traffic jams.

Ultimately, traffic congestion is caused by increases in traffic. In Bangkok there are 9.8 million registered private cars and motorcycles, which is right times more than what the existing road infrastructure can accommodate.

To achieve smart mobility, the goal is beyond just increasing mass transit options but also developing an integrated public transport network based on data-driven insights that encourages shift of commuters’ behaviour to using mass transit.

Smart use of data is paramount to realising this goal and ride-hailing platforms can be part of the solution.

Using digital technology, ride-hailing platforms have helped provide Bangkokians with safe and reliable alternative transportation options. From these services, myriad of transit data such as hotspots for pick-up and drop off and peak hours traffic can enable cities to make better decisions about routes, intervals and where to invest.

Data-supported insights that showcase the demand of ride-share services across different areas can also provide valuable inference point for city planners and policymakers to develop an integrated transport system.

To ensure these insights can be derived smartly and accurately, a reliable platform is required to allow a secure, scalable and easy way to share data. Grab’s proprietary Smart Mobility Platform is an example. City planners can easily visualise historical and real-time traffic information calculated from Grab rides on the road using the platform. 

Such visualisation can be used for analysis and planning purposes but beyond that, these visualisations also form the basic foundation from which additional layers of information and analysis can be developed to create a wholistic real time road network management system.

Traffic data in Bangkok, visualised on the Smart Mobility Platform – demonstrating how an easy-to-access, versatile and customisable platform facilitates efficient data analysis.

Thailand has high mobile penetration and social media use, so Thais are accustomed to the seamless world they experience online. As a result, commuters are expecting a similar experience when they travel. This expectation can be a key turning point to encourage more use of mass transit by ensuring the journey has minimal transit gaps, making it hassle-free and comfortable.

Ride-hailing services have been helping to close the gap as it provides commuters alternative transportation choices to completing their first-mile-last-mile transit in the city.

The transit experience can be further improved when data from different transportation modes such as buses and trains are combined with ride-hailing data to give commuters accurate road information, allowing better trip planning. Commuters will have full visibility to decide on their preferred journey option based on their preference and other needs, whether that’s to take public transit for most of the distance and use ride-hailing for some part of the way. Mobility services are beneficial not only to city residents but also tourists.

Combining private and public data will not only provides convenience to commuters, it also generates a more comprehensive insight to help create better analysis and planning for the city.

Grab’s Trip Planner pilot – a feature that integrates public transportation options directly into the Grab app, with Grab services offering first-mile-last-mile rides to and from public transit stations or bus stops. This pilot will inform Grab on the next iteration of shared transport integration.

In addition to helping unlock the city’s mobility, e-hailing platforms have the capability to drive exponential positive impact. This is evident in the case of Grab, whose super-app ecosystem has facilitated services such as e-payments and has provided more income opportunities for driver partners, accelerating the digital economy growth of the city.

In partnership with cities and transit agencies, data integration and seamless connectivity can be fostered, allowing an ecosystem with clear and consistent guidelines to enable more innovations.

A future where this sharing economy can benefit not just Bangkok but all cities and provinces, unlocking full digital potential of Thailand.

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