I haven’t written anything on here in a REALLY long time, but now seems as good a time as any to go back to writing, at least for this subject.
People in my network would be familiar with my very colourful commuter stories. For those who aren’t, hello, I am Chenyl and I am your average commuter. My daily route to work involves a jeepney ride, and a transfer from the jeepney to a multi-cab (dem orange vans). The whole trip takes about an hour and a half, depending on traffic and weather conditions.
A lot of things can happen in a 1.5hour trip. You encounter many different kinds of people, drivers, fellow commuters and some hitchhikers, all with varying levels of agreeability. These kinds of people merit their own posts, but I’ll save that for another time.
I think many would agree that commuting in Metro Manila is still very far from Utopian levels, in terms of convenience and safety. In my quest for a better way of commuting to work, I stumbled upon Wunder.
“Wunder: Carpool with friends”
Wunder is a carpooling app that started in Hamburg in 2014, and it entered Metro Manila in February 2016.
The app links you to a network of people who go in the same general direction as you do, letting you “hitch” a ride and share the cost of fuel. You sign up using either an e-mail address or your Facebook account, and then choose to be either a Passenger or a Driver. My experience was that of a Passenger’s.
As a Passenger, you enter your preferred pick-up and drop-off points and pick-up time. The app searches the best “matches” for your requirements (lol Tinder?!). When a driver finds your route specifications agreeable, he accepts your trip and contacts you personally to coordinate.
What makes it different from other ride-sharing apps?
- Business Model
Wunder aims to build a community of carpoolers linked through the app, and the intention is to utilise the extra space in a vehicle and then split the cost of fuel. It is not meant to be used as a TNC unlike the other ride-sharing services available in Manila today. Drivers are limited to two rides daily, one bound for work and another for the trip home. As a rider and a Manila resident, I am happy with this concept, since it will keep pricing down and will not encourage people to use this for profit, worsening the road congestion in the process. The business model is better explained by this post.
Wunder currently requires no booking fees, and it costs Php 4 / KM. There are plans of introducing additional fees in the future, once there are enough users. BOO that, but I guess it’s not surprising. However, since the pricing model only aims to cover part of the driver’s fuel expense and not make a huge profit, the cost won’t shoot up significantly for passengers even with a booking fee. (I hope.)
- Ride Quality and Safety Assurance
Where Uber and Grab has a screening process for the cars and drivers that they deploy, Wunder does not seem to have this. What they do have is a star-rating system similar to Grab and Uber (at least for the drivers; not sure if there’s a rider rating). Based on the driver’s ratings – and perhaps some Google-fu skills if that’s your thing – it’s up to you to decide whether you trust the person or not. Challenge here is that since the app is new, users and user reviews are currently limited. I was lucky enough to book a ride with someone who was not a creep and had a relatively new/well-maintained car, BUT that was a bit of a risk since he had no previous rides/ratings to help me discern. Also, e-mail addresses and Facebook accounts are easy enough to fake, so do take the necessary precautions in accepting riders/passengers.
- Route Flexibility
In your account, you indicate if your preferred pick-up and drop-off points/schedules are flexible. If you say that you are slightly or very flexible, the driver and passenger can coordinate and agree on a different pickup/drop off point depending on the driver’s route. The challenge I see here is that you currently couldn’t do that level of coordination in-app, you have to do it via call or SMS. I haven’t explored the app fully, so I’m not sure if you can change your trip specs once it has been accepted so I don’t know how you will be able to recalculate your fare estimate.
- Payment Options
Wunder currently accepts cash payments only.
What I loved:
In a nutshell, the experience was similar to taking an Uber or a Grab Car, but pre-booked well in advance and at half the price. The cost is still about 3x more expensive than my usual fare via jeeps and multicabs, but I guess that’s the price you pay for comfort and safety. Will the cost go down if there were more passengers in the car? I sure hope so!
Also, I really like the idea of “real” ride-sharing too, hopefully more people get on the network. Our roads BADLY need decongesting.
Where Wunder can improve:
Even though the app was running in the background, I was only notified that one of my requests have been accepted via e-mail. I didn’t receive a notification from the app itself. My e-mail notifications have been turned off to save on battery, so if my designated driver didn’t SMS me personally, I wouldn’t have known that I had a confirmed ride.
- Expense Visibility
I couldn’t see my estimated fare in the app. Not sure if I just didn’t use the app correctly but from my end, I couldn’t see any sort of fare calculator during the booking phase. When the trip ended, the app told me to pay “Php 0” which is impossible. The driver said the app indicated Php 95. Weird, but okay, I paid the Php 95 anyway.
- Visibility of the Car’s Details
Again, not sure if this is something that the driver is required to indicate from his end, but from my end I was not able to see the car’s plate number or car model. I had to ask the driver via SMS. Sure that’s easy enough to do, but it’s a safety risk too.
- Additional Passengers
There’s no clear rule if it’s a 1 : 1 Booking : Passenger thing. Of course you can always coordinate with your driver if he’ll agree to more than one passengers per booking, but how does the pricing work then?
Overall the experience was very pleasant and I’m willing to try it again. Will I use it every day? Probably not, given that its 3x the cost of my usual commute. Of course, it’s unfair to expect that the cost will be at jeepney-levels, but thrice the price on a daily basis is just super steep for someone like me.
Hopefully, with more users, the cost will go further down and it’ll at least be within FX-price levels. But for now, or until I get a hefty pay raise, commuter safety and comfort will have to take the blow, once again. *cries*