An Update on the ridesharing app Orbiting… and the Economic Sense Behind Ridesharing

It has been a while since I last provided an update on the development of the ridesharing (aka carpooling) app, Orbiting. For various reasons, including technical difficulties which I did not foresee, it has taken a bit longer than expected to complete.

However, I am happy to announce that it is finally ready and available for download on Google Play and the iTunes App Store.

The feature set that was announced in the first article has not changed but here is a quick recap:

  • Uses Facebook Connect to login to use your online social identity and reputation
  • Search and request for rides on-demand or simply schedule one for a later time
  • See all drivers and passengers close by and make direct offers or requests
  • Know the cost contribution and who you are sharing a ride with before accepting
  • Share your journey details with family and friends
  • Correlates information from Facebook to show how much users have in common
  • Review drivers and passengers at the end of each ride to maintain a trusted community

Based on some feedback, there will be a minor update coming soon. In the current release, you can tell if a person requesting or offering a ride is a friend of yours on Facebook. In the coming update, this feature has been extended further. The person may not be a friend but if you both know the same person (or people), you will be able to tell that this person is a friend of a friend. This new update should be released within the next couple of weeks. I am also in the process of creating a tutorial to help new users familiarize themselves with the app. In the meantime, do read the FAQ on the website to find out more.
While Orbiting is available for download publicly, it will be a closed community for a few months and you will need an invitation to make use of this. I decided to go down this route as I think that this will put most people more at ease compared to a completely open group.

That said, even if you do not have an invitation, you can still continue with the registration process on the app itself. Your interest will be registered and you may receive an invitation after a review. Alternatively, you could just send me an e-mail at info@orbiting.com.my. For a start, I am looking for people, hopefully with a right balance of drivers and riders, who move about in a the following areas:

  • Subang Jaya
  • Sunway
  • Damansara / Bandar Utama
  • Bangsar
  • KL central area

Even if you are not located in the areas above but are interested, feel free to contact me. For example, you may be a business owner or planning for an event but your business or event may be at an inconvenient location for your clients or attendees (eg. traffic congestion, limited parking spots, very far off). If you have clients or attendees that you know well enough and frequent your business or attend your events regularly, you could provide them with an alternative mode of transportation to get to your business or event.

Being new and with a small user base, I do anticipate the initial months to be slow and Orbiting might not seem all too useful. I do hope that you will bear with me as I work towards building this community. If you do know anyone who would be interested in participating, your assistance in pointing them to Orbiting would also help achieve this objective.

The Increase in the Price of Petrol

The release of Orbiting has coincided with a very relevant event in Malaysia this past month. You must be aware by now that, effective from the 3rd of September 2013, the price of RON95 petrol and diesel has increased by RM0.20 bringing the prices to RM2.10 per liter and RM2.00 respectively. The price of RON97 petrol also increased by RM0.15 on the 5th September 2013 bringing the current price to RM2.85 per liter.

Filling Up The Tanks by Midnight
How does this affect drivers like you and me? Let us do some basic mathematics by making some conservative assumptions about the behavior of a car and how it is generally used. We will stick strictly to RON95.

  • It is assumed that most people would travel approximately 250 kilometers per week, approximately 36km per day.
  • It is assumed that every liter of petrol will be able to cover 10 kilometers. This translates to RM0.21 per kilometer, up from RM0.19 per kilometer.
  • If you drive, you will most likely pass through a tolled highway. It is assumed that most people will pay approximately RM20 per week for use of these tolled highways.
  • When you do get to your destination, you may need to park your car. It is assumed that most people would need to pay approximately RM20 per week for parking.
  • To maintain a reliable car, you would need to send it in for servicing regularly. It is assumed that most people would spend approximately RM600 per year, approximately RM12.50 per week, on maintenance.
Estimated Averages Before Now
Distance per week (km) 250 250
Petrol cost per week (RM) 47.50 52.50
Toll cost per week (RM) 20.00 20.00
Parking per week (RM) 20.00 20.00
Maintenance per week (RM) 12.50 12.50
Total cost per month (RM) 400.00 420.00
Total cost per year (RM) 4800.00 5040.00
Average cost per km (RM) 0.40 0.42

You can see that the increase does not appear to be too significant. It appears to be only an additional RM20 per month, RM240 per year, an increase of just 10%. However, have you looked at the bigger picture and considered how the increase in petrol prices might affect the price of other goods and services that you consume? While some businesses may choose to absorb the increased transportation cost, most will probably pass it on to you and me, the consumers. When you add all these together, your total cost of living would likely see an increase of more than 10%.

Ridesharing to Reduce Transportation Costs

Ridesharing is an idea that, I have no doubt, will take people time to get used to or even accept. However, it is certainly an ideal way to help reduce the transportation costs for those of us who have no access to other modes of transportation. To start off, you could just consider doing this for a small fraction of the distance you would typically cover every week. As you use it and find yourself becoming more comfortable with the idea, you could then increase your usage frequency.

Estimated Averages 0% of
Distance Shared
10%
of Distance Shared
30%
of Distance Shared
50%
of Distance Shared
Distance per week (km) 250 250 250 250
Distance shared per week (km) 0 25 75 125
Total cost per week (RM) 105.00 99.75 89.25 78.75
Total cost per month (RM) 420.00 399.00 357.00 315.00
Total cost per year (RM) 5040.00 4788.00 4284.00 3780.00
Savings per year (RM) 252.00 756.00 1260.00
Average cost per km (RM) 0.42 0.40 0.36 0.32

From the table above, you can see the amount of money you could potentially save by sharing rides can be quite significant if you got into the habit of ridesharing. Even if you shared only a small percentage of your time sharing rides, perhaps once or twice a week, you would be able to cover the increase in petrol costs and other expenses.
So even if you do not have too much concerns from an environmental perspective, perhaps cost savings could be your motivation for ridesharing.

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