SINGAPORE (AFP) – Controversial taxi app Uber is under fire from Brussels to Bangkok, but in Singapore a government-sponsored alternative has been panned as “stunningly pointless” by online commentators.
The Taxi-TaxiSG smartphone app – a rare effort by a government to compete with the likes of Uber – was launched by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) on Wednesday.
It displays the locations of available taxis from the tiny city-state’s 28,000-strong registered taxi fleet, but crucially, unlike Uber, does not allow bookings to be made.
Web-based service Uber has gained in popularity around the world in recent years, but has drawn protests from established taxi operators who say the service does not comply with strict regulations governing registered cabs.
The booking app has seen its image tarnished in particular by the alleged rape of a passenger by an Uber driver in New Delhi, as well as by executives’ gaffes and concerns on privacy.
Services offered by the San Francisco-based company have also been ruled illegal in Thailand, the Netherlands and Spain, while in Belgium it is the subject of a tax probe.
However in Singapore, a service that allows users to “broadcast” their locations to draw taxi drivers to areas with high demand but not actually book a cab drew a steady stream of online derision Thursday.
Terence Lee, an editor with Singapore-based technology website Tech in Asia, slammed the app in a post titled “This taxi app by Singapore’s transport agency is stunningly pointless”.
“Taxi booking apps… solve real problems – getting commuters a cab fast, and giving taxi drivers a means to make more money,” he wrote.
“This is something that’s best left to the private sector. LTA should put taxpayer’s money to better use.”
On Twitter, some Singaporeans responded to a call by local satirist Lee Kin Mun to “rename the most useless taxi app in the world”, with one user suggesting “Turn Up For What”, a play on the popular song by DJ Snake and Lil Jon.
An LTA spokeswoman told AFP the app lacked a booking function because it “is meant to facilitate the hailing of taxis along the street”.
“Going forward, we will monitor users’ feedback and enhance the app based on feedback received,” she added.