Stuck in a bad traffic jam? There’s an app for that.
Grab, a Southeast Asian ridesharing platform, tested a helicopter-on-demand service in Indonesia over this past weekend. The Uber competitor offered free rides in a chopper to select customers in Jakarta, the Indonesian capital that’s notorious for its bad traffic. Alongside the traditional car hail, current Grab customers in many Southeast Asian countries can already order motorbike taxis to skip around lengthy jams.
Per Mashable, Grab previously tested a similar service in 2015, though that came to nothing. This time however, the company seems to be serious. “We see that the public need is there, there are executives who need to move from one point to another in a short period of time,” a company rep told AFP. The news service also reported that Uber previously tested its UberChopper service in Jakarta two years ago, though it has not made moves to commercialize the service.
In the West, Uber has offered seasonal helicopter services. Last summer, it offered $3,000 rides from New York City to the Hamptons. For the past two years, it has provided chopper services in the south of France pegged to the Cannes Film Festival.
For those who can afford it, GrabHeli can’t come sooner. A famous Indonesian novelist once quipped that his fellow countrymen spent a decade of their lives navigating traffic jams. A recent study from Castrol found that Jakarta had the worst traffic in the world and it can take between two to three hours to commute the 25 miles from outer suburbs into the city center. The Indonesian government itself estimates that bad traffic costs the capital $5 billion in lost productivity each year.
While relatively unknown elsewhere, homegrown Grab has emerged as a major rival to Uber in Southeast Asia. Last year, it was reportedly valued by outside investors at $2.3 billion.