The next time you Grab a ride from Marina Bay Sands, look for the little green dots that let you choose exactly where you want to be picked up.
Gone are the days of having to type in “Notes” or call the driver to say whether you’re at the Convention Centre or at Hotel Tower 3. There are even useful descriptions like “near Sands SkyPark” to help you identify the specific pick-up point.
Typically, map providers place location markers right in the middle of buildings and places. These are useful for navigating from A to B but can be confusing for drivers trying to pick up or drop off passengers.
Airports, shopping centres, train stations and tourist attractions are especially challenging. Compounded by high traffic and multiple entrances, these places become a pick-up roulette for drivers and passengers trying to find one another.
Through local data collection and analysis, our map operations team has rolled out more than 5,000 new, precise pick-up points across the region. The green dots on your app show the different pick-up points in these busy locations, and you can even toggle between them to choose the most convenient.
“The green dots make it so much easier. The driver knows where to pick us up from and we know where we need to wait for him. Previously, we’d be on the phone and trying to figure out where each other is,” said Rebecca Low, an accountant, who uses Grab to get to work daily.
Let us take care of getting you there
Ultimately our goal is to provide you with seamless point-to-point travel. If you have to walk from your selected pick-up point to where the car is, the distance walked is what we call a “rendezvous distance”.
To reduce such rendezvous distances, we first identify the most challenging regions (see shaded areas on interactive map below) by crunching huge amounts of data and analysing location-related feedback from passengers and drivers.
We first look up locations online to pinpoint where the best pick-up points might be, followed by visiting each location to corroborate what has been discovered. We talk to locals to get their feedback and assess if the pick-up point is feasible for different vehicle types, making sure it’s compliant with local regulations. For example, taxi stands in shopping malls may be accessible only to taxis but not private cars.
With more accurate pick-up points, the driver can pull up precisely to where you are waiting. Drivers are now less stressed in trying to locate passengers, who are also less likely to cancel out of frustration.
“In high-traffic areas like shopping malls or airports, the app is not only able to detect where we are but also automatically prompts us to select the closest pick-up point,” said Jervis Chan, a lawyer, who uses only Grab to get around.
And this convenience is being felt across the region, where, on average, you can get to your car within 40 metres. In Singapore, most passengers are now able to get to the car within 30 metres.
“We want to create the best ride-hailing experience for our customers in Southeast Asia. It’s crucial that our passengers get picked up and dropped off at the specific point they’ve indicated,” said Ajay Bulusu, Grab’s Regional Head, Map Operations.
“We’ve made great progress, and we’re scaling rapidly to improve the accuracy of all pick-ups and drop-offs. Passengers can now enjoy the ease and convenience of being picked up at the exact airport terminal door or a particular point in a large industrial park or shopping mall.”
What’s more, when you make a booking on the Grab app, its machine-learning capability has already figured out your routine and helped auto-complete your destination.
“It’s really amazing how the app remembers and predicts where I want to go whenever I open it,” said Rueben Kumar, a pre-school administrator, who uses Grab to get home from work every evening.
Crowdsourcing: the way to a better map
As we work to make our pick-up and drop-off points even more precise, we’re also taking swift action on locations that might have been inaccurately pinned.
To do so, we are fortunate to have the Grab community as our eyes on the road to inform us of any blind spots. That is why we’ve made it easier for you to provide feedback.
When Jervis wanted to let us know that the pick-up point for his house was pinned incorrectly, it took just three taps to get to ‘Report Location Issue’ in the app. Passengers can select specific location issues to give feedback on, such as ‘incorrect route or entrance’ or ‘missing address, name or pick-up/drop-off location’.
Jervis realised that drivers often couldn’t find his Kembangan housing estate along the expressway. To get a ride, he would either use a neighbouring estate as a pick-up point or guide the drivers over the phone.
“This affects the whole row of houses along the expressway and I wanted to play a part in improving the passenger experience for everyone here,” said Jervis, who also sends in feedback on behalf of colleagues and friends that encounter similar problems with pick-up points.
For Rueben, he always wondered why drivers took longer than the estimated arrival time until he discovered that the pick-up point for his workplace — a HDB block in Woodlands — was pinned to the garbage area behind the block, instead of the front entrance.
Seeing how this problem affected everyone travelling to and from the area, Rueben reported it to us and, now, the pick-up point is pinned correctly.
“It’s very easy to make your location issue known through the app,” he added. “It’s just a few taps and doesn’t take up much of your time but you end up helping to improve the ride experience for so many people.”
Across the region, feedback from riders like Jervis and Rueben has been crucial in helping us build a map meant for ride-hailing. Between last October and January this year, we delivered almost 2,000 map updates for passengers based on their feedback on locations.
With the ‘Driver Rate Trip’ in-app feature, drivers can also instantly submit feedback on location issues, which gets pushed directly to our engineering and operations team for immediate action.
Within four months of launching this feature, we acted on more than 50,000 location-related feedback responses from our drivers in the region. They told us about restricted pick-up or drop-off points, closed roads, and even undocumented back alleys!
“A lot remains to be done to map the whole of Southeast Asia for ride-hailing, and we are definitely getting there with active feedback from our drivers and passengers. We can achieve this together as a community, if everyone helps everyone,” said Ajay.
While it may seem like we are not addressing your comments instantly, we assure you that every piece of feedback from you is helping us build a better and happier ride-hailing experience in Southeast Asia.