Riding on data for higher efficiency
It is always a quest for Grab to hit that sweet spot - where the demand from riders meets the supply of drivers at the right place, so that prices remain as low as possible for both the riders and company.
The ride-hailing platform tries to get as close as possible to this ideal by making sure that its drivers do not stay idle.
Its vice-president of engineering, Mr Arul Kumaravel, told The New Paper: "What we are doing is making sure that when (the drivers) are online with Grab, they are most efficiently used."
With a network of more than 50,000 drivers here, Grab tries to meet their needs by feeding them a variety of data - a combination of real-time and historical data that is stored on the Amazon Web Services cloud.
This includes gauging the odds a driver would bid for a job. And if a driver gets a ping about demand at Raffles Place but does not go there, the system will note it down and adapt, said Mr Kumaravel.
"It is not like we spam every driver with every (piece of) information. Our system personalises the information, knows which driver will respond to what kind of messages and knows what they prefer," he said.
New rides are also dispatched to drivers before their current one ends, making it an almost seamless transition from one trip to the next.
Grab driver Andrew Kee, 40, told TNP: "It is easier for us, because it means we can complete more trips. We make better use of our time on the roads because we are matched to more passengers and more accurately."
This state of mind - being immersed in completing trips and finding enjoyment in racking up the number of completed trips - should be maintained to keep drivers on the roads, said Dr Walter Theseira.
The Singapore University of Social Sciences economist told TNP: "Otherwise, the driver could get distracted and look for a break. That could reduce the driver's earnings and their availability."
National University of Singapore's Professor Ho Teck Hua added that for the drivers, seeing a ping for the next trip is almost like fulfilling an unfulfilled duty.
A more recent update for Grab drivers is an app feature that helps them track how far they are away from getting certain incentives.
This is something Grab drivers asked for, said Mr Kumaravel.
"This pushes drivers to work a little harder," said Prof Ho.
"On a bad day for drivers, they might take a shorter break to make up for the shortfall (in earnings) and meet their goals," he said.
Dr Theseira said: "The other side, however, is that studies have shown that once people meet the objective, they may stop driving for the day - so the objective has to be chosen carefully to balance incentivising people to meet it versus having them lose interest once they meet the objective."
At the end of the day, Grab hopes for its drivers to make their time spent on the platform count.
"From a driver's perspective, if you think about it, they are driving on a platform to make a living," said Mr Kumaravel.
"We need to make sure they are able to make enough income based on the hours they spend on our platform..."
- FOO JIE YING